India's Heat Wave is the Whole World's Concern

India's Heat Wave is the Whole World's Concern

India has been battling record-breaking heatwaves for months -- and within much of the country, there’s no end in sight. In the nation’s capital of New Delhi, which is home to more than 30 million people, the average temperature in April was over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of the 1.4 billion people who live in India don’t have access to electricity, let alone air conditioning, and dozens have already died of heat-related causes.

Further, the extreme heat has revealed that India’s economy is among the world’s most vulnerable, with climate change expected to cost India 34 million full-time jobs by 2030.

PBS: India's deadly heat wave shows the real-world effects of climate change, May 8, 2022.

ABC (Australia): India's record-breaking heatwave tests the limits of human survival, May 2022.

Why This Matters

Already, India’s extreme heat has created a nationwide energy crisis. Electricity demand has risen by 40%, and the IEA estimates that from now until 2040, India’s energy use will grow more than any other nation in the world.

Fortunately, the heatwaves arrived as humidity during the early spring months is at a relative low. However, the Andhra Pradesh coast is currently under warning for a tropical cyclone that might change that. The humidity from storms -- especially during monsoon season -- could make the situation in India even more deadly due to “wet-bulb temperatures.” The term refers to measurements of heat and humidity that are particularly dangerous because they decrease the human ability to perspire and cool. Combined with widespread vulnerability, wet-bulb temperatures have the potential to create a major public health crisis across the country.

Al Jezeeera: India power cuts | Homes, hospitals and businesses facing shortage, May 6, 2022.

Bloomberg: India Is Moving Rapidly Toward Renewables |JSW Energy, May 5, 2022.

India’s Energy Future

A majority -- 55% -- of India’s energy needs are met by coal. In order to keep up with increased demand and avoid blackouts, the country has further increased its reliance on the fossil fuel. India’s government recently announced plans to lease over 100 state-owned, unused coal mines to private mining companies in an effort to combat the 25 million ton fuel shortfall created by the heatwaves.

Although India has pledged to reach net-zero by 2070 and to install 500 additional GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, the short-term pressures are pushing these long-term plans aside. India’s coal minister Pralhad Joshi recently stated that India plans to increase coal production from 1 billion to 1.2 billion tons over the next two years.

"We've always believed that coal is a much-maligned sector," Anil Kumar Jain, a senior official for the Ministry of Coal, stated. "Earlier we were hailed as 'bad boys’ because we were promoting fossil fuel and now we are in the news (because) we are not supplying enough of it."

Bill Spindle, who oversees coverage in India for the Wall Street Journal, says India’s heatwaves are an issue that must be reckoned with by the world as a whole. "[W]ithout new commitment from the developed world to bear more of the costs of climate change,” he states in an op-ed for the Atlantic, "India’s spring heatwave will still be felt in the fall.” Spindle is referring to when the world meets in Egypt for COP27.

WION: India plans to lease abandoned coal pits to private players, May 9, 2022.

Robin Hood: "This is Loss and Damage - Who Pays" narrated by Mark Strong, September 23, 2021.

Carbon Brief: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?, October 4, 2021.