Heatwaves Hit India's Labor Force

Heatwaves Hit India's Labor Force

A heatwave in India is putting pressure on the nation to address the climate crisis. In some regions, particularly in the central and northwest, temperatures have been the highest on record in 122 years. Since March 11, extreme heatwaves have hit 15 Indian states, encompassing New Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat, where surface land temperatures have reached as high as 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

BBC: India heatwave leaves millions struggling to cope, April 28, 2022.

DW: Up to 50 °C | India hit by record-shattering temperatures since spring, April 29, 2022.

Why This Matters

India’s laborers are at risk during such extreme heat, as it is among the most dangerous extreme weather, particularly for the most vulnerable. The IPCC suggested that India would be the most "economically harmed” by climate weather events, a horrible effect of continued emissions.

According to a report from the International Labor Organization, "Because of its large population, India is in absolute terms expected to lose the equivalent of 34 million full-time jobs in 2030 as a result of climate change.” And a study by Duke University found that India lost 259 billion hours of labor annually between 2001 and 2020 because of the impacts of humid heat. 

Al Jazeera: How much is climate change to blame for heatwaves in South Asia?, April 30, 2022.

AP: Unusual heat wave scorches India's wheat crop, April 29, 2022.

Democracy Now: Climate Injustice | Those Who Face Record Heat Wave in India & Pakistan Did Not Create the Crisis, May 2, 2022.

Adapting to Hotter Weather

"The extreme climate events are occurring due to climate instability. Nowadays, there are solely extremes whether it is heat, cold, floods or drought,” Akhilesh Gupta, head of the Climate Change Program at India’s Department of Science & Technology, told Al Jazeera. "This will occur more often than earlier because of climate change. The duration, intensity, and frequency will also rise in the future,”

Local conditions also contribute to hot weather. High emissions in cities and "heat islands” intensify already unbearable heatwaves. Avinash Chanchal, campaign manager at Greenpeace India, emphasized the need to prepare India’s cities for hotter days by stating, "Urban planning must take measures for vegetation plantations, including rooftop gardening and community nutritional gardens, increase green spaces, and conserve the water bodies.”

CNA: India's power crisis worsens amid extreme heatwave; less than a day's coal left in many areas, April 29, 2022.

The YEARS Project: What Caused India’s Record-Breaking Heatwave, June 14, 2019.

BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.