Recent interdisciplinary research conducted by experts from Penn State College of Health and Human Development, Purdue University College of Sciences, and Purdue Institute for a Sustainable Future, published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” has sounded a warning about the potential health hazards posed by global warming. The study suggests that if the planet’s temperature rises by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it could have devastating consequences for human health, leading to an increased risk of heat strokes and heart attacks.
Human bodies have limits when it comes to tolerating combinations of heat and humidity, and exceeding these limits can result in severe heat-related health problems.
The research indicates that if global temperatures climb by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a staggering 2.2 billion people living in Pakistan and India’s Indus River Valley, along with 1 billion individuals in eastern China and 800 million in sub-Saharan Africa, will face prolonged periods of extreme heat surpassing human tolerance.
Cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Shanghai, Multan, Nanjing, and Wuhan are among those that will be most severely affected by these annual heatwaves. The dire situation is compounded by the fact that these regions consist mainly of low and middle-income nations, where access to air conditioning and effective cooling methods may be limited.
Should global warming continue to escalate to 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the intensified heat levels could also impact regions like the Eastern Seaboard and the central United States, stretching from Florida to New York and from Houston to Chicago. South America and Australia would not be spared from the extreme heat either, according to the research findings.
However, the study emphasizes that people in developed nations are likely to suffer less compared to those in developing nations, particularly the elderly and infirm who may be at risk of succumbing to extreme heat.
Matthew Huber, co-author of the research paper and a Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, stated, “The worst heat stress will occur in regions that are not wealthy and that are expected to experience rapid population growth in the coming decades. This is true despite the fact that these nations generate far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than wealthy nations. As a result, billions of poor people will suffer, and many could die. But wealthy nations will suffer from this heat as well, and in this interconnected world, everyone can expect to be negatively affected in some way.”
To mitigate the rise in temperatures, the researchers assert that greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, must be drastically reduced. Failing to make these necessary changes will result in the most severe consequences for middle-income and low-income countries.