Are We Slowly Burning?
By Megha Rana
It has become evident that we live in an era of global heating and extreme weather events, and though this has been an issue for some time now, the effects are becoming more apparent than ever.
March of 2022 was the hottest month ever recorded in India (since its records began about 122 years ago). Along with that, March was extremely dry with rainfall amounts being 71% below normal. Heatwaves are not uncommon for places near the equator, like India, but in recent times, they are becoming excruciatingly unbearable. The 2022 heat wave was estimated to have caused 90 deaths across India and Pakistan, and since these rising temperatures are unlikely to stop in the near future, frequent heatwaves leave some coping mechanisms insufficient as conditions in various regions meet or exceed human survivability.
The many dangers of extreme heat are no longer an outlook for years ahead; they are an event of the near future. Some of these include dangers imposed on food scarcity, our environment, and our health. The dangers on our health are also building by the day. A recent study from the Karolinska Institute of Sweden showed that numerous people are getting hospitalized for hyponatremia (or low sodium levels) because of the time they spend outdoors. Two possible reasons for heat-related hyponatremia would be sodium loss from sweating or excessive hydration due to a fear of dehydration (Cohut). Extreme heat could also be a danger for increased infections as the heat could increase the permeability of digestive barriers, increasing the susceptibility of infections through the digestive system. Also, the elderly and those with comorbidities are at a higher risk of detrimental health effects in these hotter summers.
Global warming has made our heatwaves hotter, longer, and more frequent. There is no doubt that long-term solutions toward reducing global warming and its impact on society would prove to be the most fruitful. Wowever, there are some short-term solutions to provide temporary relief. Cities can offer community cooling centers to offer protection for vulnerable populations. Cities can also improve infrastructure to avoid power outages and keep access to water. Establishing cool pavements, tree/vegetation cover, and building roofs so they do not absorb heat are other ways to help beat the heat. Individuals themselves can even pitch in by making their homes more energy-efficient. It will take each and every one of us to take part in these short-term solutions to pave the way towards our bigger long-term goal of reducing global warming to the extent that we need for the safety of us, our environment, and the future of this planet.
Cohut, M. (2022, April 22). Climate Change: The Impact on Health. Medical News Today. Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/in-conversation-why-climate-change-matters-for-human-health#Climate-change-and-physical-health
Climate Change Made Devastating Early Heat in India and Pakistan 30 Times More Likely. World Weather Attribution header. (2022, May 23). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/climate-change-made-devastating-early-heat-in-india-and-pakistan-30-times-more-likely/
Nationalacademies.org. (2021, August 23). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://www.nationalacademies.org/based-on-science/global-warming-makes-heat-waves-hotter-longer-and-more-common