Devastating heat wave may hit Earth, causing billions of people to suffer
If global temperatures rise by 1 degree Celsius or more from current levels, billions of people will face extreme heat and humidity every year, making it harder for their bodies to cool naturally. This can cause heat-related health problems, such as heat stroke or heart attack.
This is stated in a study conducted by a team of scientists from the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, Purdue University College of Science, and the Purdue Institute for a Sustainable Future (USA). The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The warning came after several heat records were set in the summer of 2023.
In a statement, the scientists said that "warming of the planet by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will have increasingly devastating consequences for human health around the planet."
The global use of machines and the construction of factories that burn fossil fuels has led to an increase in global temperatures of almost 1 degree Celsius.
In 2015, 196 countries concerned about global warming signed the Paris Agreement, which aimed to prevent the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius from exceeding the pre-industrial level.
Therefore, the researchers conducted simulations taking into account the worst-case scenarios of temperature rise from 1.5 to 4 degrees Celsius.
A study suggesting that the maximum ambient temperature for young, healthy people is about 31 degrees Celsius at 100% humidity was published in 2022.
The results of the study showed that a 2-degree Celsius increase in temperature above pre-industrial levels would cause 2.2 billion people in Pakistan and the Indus Valley in India, one billion people in eastern China, and 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa to suffer prolonged heat waves that exceed human capacity every year.
Heat waves will be even more damaging because the air will not be able to effectively absorb excess moisture. This will interfere with the human body's ability to cool itself through sweat evaporation and water simulation in infrastructure, such as evaporative coolers.
Scientists note that the situation will look even more critical if we remember that we are talking about low- and middle-income countries, where most people simply do not have access to air conditioning or other effective means to mitigate the negative health effects of extreme heat.
Larry Kenney, a co-author of the study and professor of physiology and kinesiology at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that people sweat and cool down when they get hot. At this time, more blood flows to the skin to maintain body temperature, losing heat to the environment. But this system simply stops working at certain temperatures and humidity levels.
"And the body temperature starts to rise. This is not an immediate threat, but it requires some relief. If people don't find a way to cool down for a few hours, it can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and stress on the cardiovascular system, which can lead to heart attacks in vulnerable people," Kenney explained.
If the temperature exceeds pre-industrial levels by 3 degrees Celsius, "heat and humidity levels that exceed human tolerance will begin to affect the East Coast and the middle of the United States from Florida to New York and from Houston to Chicago."
South America and Australia will also be heavily impacted by the extreme heat.
Although the forecast does not sound too optimistic, scientists warn that modeling often does not take into account extreme and unusual weather events.
"Such models are good at predicting trends, but they don't predict specific events, such as the 2021 heat wave in Oregon that killed more than 700 people or the heat wave in London that reached 40 degrees Celsius last summer," said lead author and bioclimatologist Daniel Vecellio.
He warns that if the global temperature continues to rise, "we will live in a world where crops die and millions or billions of people will try to migrate because their home regions will become uninhabitable."
As OBOZ.UA previously reported, scientists predicted that global warming could kill a billion people in 100 years, with deadly heat waves becoming the norm on Earth.