Scientists say Human-Caused Warming Responsible for Current Heatwave in Asia

Heatwave All But Impossible without Human-Caused Climate Change
Cricket fans cover their heads with a long scarf to shield themselves from heat during an Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match in Lucknow, India. (Photo: AP )

World Weather Attribution (WWA) has reported that the heatwave in Laos and Thailand would not have happened, if not for humans contributing to the rise of global temperatures.

WWA, an international science consortium specializing in the links between climate change and extreme weather events around the world, said record-breaking temperatures which stretched across the second half of April was one of the most remarkable heatwaves to hit South Asia in recent history.

Temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius across the region, with Luang Prabang setting a new all-time record when temperatures peaked at 42.7 degrees. Such levels of heat are “extremely dangerous” for human health, says Chaya Vaddhanaphuti, a scientist at Chiang Mai University in Thailand.

With the contribution of human pollution, the study found that climate change made the event about 30 more times likely to occur. In Laos and Thailand, extreme heat is much rarer, as this event would only have a 0.5% chance of occurring any given year, researchers found, if not for climate change.

This overwhelming heat has caused a spike in deaths and hospitalizations, especially in India. It has also caused temporary closure in schools, and made it extremely hazardous for outdoor workers like farmers, construction workers and street vendors to work during daytime.

Many countries in Asia have started to adopt a heat action plan, including early warning systems and mechanisms for issuing heat advisories. However, these systems have “not been uniform,” said Anshu Ogra, a public policy expert at the Indian Institute of Technology.

Researchers from the WWA also said that heat will continue to worsen around the world, until world leaders take abrasive action in combating greenhouse gas emissions. Temperatures around the world have already climbed to dangerous levels, making it crucial for communities to adapt to the heat even as they work to prevent worse warming in the near future.

“Adaptation is not an alternative, we need to talk about both; we need to talk about mitigation and adaptation as central to these processes to be able to reduce these impacts we see in the world today,” said Emmanuel Raju, director of the Copenhagen Centre for Disaster Research at the University of Copenhagen.