survivability limit
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India to soon suffer heatwaves that break human survivability limit: World Bank report

A report by World Bank has a ominous warning for India and it only spells doom, as the report has stated that India will soon be one of the first countries that will experience severe heatwaves that will break the human survivability limit. 

Heatwaves have surged globally over the past decade and continue to takes lives in thousands. The report titled “Climate Investment Opportunities in India’s Cooling Sector” has said that India is experiencing higher temperatures that arrive earlier and stay far longer.

The report will be released during the two-day “India Climate and Development Partners’ Meet” being organised by World Bank in partnership with the Kerala government here.

What is Human Survivability Limit?

The Human Survivability Limit refers to the rule of thumb which states humans can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food, but there are always extraordinary cases—some have gone up to nine days without water.

Read | Modi calls for consensus on India’s G20 presidency at all-party meet

Heatwave in India 2022

In April 2022, India suffered a punishing early spring heat wave that saw temperatures in New Delhi, topping 46 degrees Celsius. “The month of March, which witnessed extraordinary spikes in temperatures, was the hottest ever recorded”, the report said. 

survivability limit

Effect of Heatwave on Indian economy

The World Bank report warned that rising heat across India can jeopardize economic productivity. “Up to 75% of India’s workforce, or 380 million people, depend on heat-exposed labor, at times working in potentially life-threatening temperatures. …By 2030, India may account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress associated productivity decline”, the report said.

India showed the largest heat exposure impacts on heavy labor among South Asian countries, with more than 101 billion hours lost a year. Analysis by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company shows that lost labor from rising heat and humidity could put up to 4.5% of India’s GDP –approximately $150-250 billion – at risk by the end of this decade.

Effect of heatwave on food and public health

India’s long-term food security and public health security will depend on a reliable cold chain network. Transporting food and pharmaceutical goods across India requires a system of cold chain refrigeration that works every step of the way.

“A single temperature lapse in the journey can break the cold chain, spoiling fresh produce and weakening the potency of vaccines. With only 4 per cent of fresh produce in India covered by cold chain facilities, annual estimated food losses total $13 billion”, it said. 

It also noted that the third largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the world, pre-Covid-19, India lost approximately 20% of temperature-sensitive medical products and 25% of vaccines due to broken cold chains, leading to losses of $313 million a year.

World Bank Report prediction

Predicting that heat waves situation in India could break the human survivability limit, it said the recent heat wave supports what many climate scientists have long cautioned about with reference to rising temperatures across South Asia. 

“The G20 Climate Risk Atlas also warned in 2021 that heat waves across India were likely to last 25 times longer by 2036-65 if carbon emissions remain high, as in the IPCC’s worst-case emission scenario,” the report said.

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