Lingering Heatwave

IN yet another indication that the heatwave is wreaking havoc across great swathes of the globe, more than 1,500 people in the area surrounding Chongqing in China were evacuated on Monday after hot and dry conditions sparked multiple wildfires. The country is experiencing the hottest summer on record, threatening the autumn harvest. China has already been hit by flash floods and droughts this summer, a phenomena that scientists are warning  could become more frequent due to creeping climate change.

The situation is no better in the rest of the world. Europe, for example, is facing its worst drought in 500 years with two-thirds of the continent under some sort of drought warning. Some of its biggest rivers have been reduced to shallow streams, hitting power generation. The latest report from the Global Drought Observatory has 47 percent of the continent is in “warning” conditions. Similarly, another 17 percent is on alert which means that the vegetation  is showing signs of stress. England has officially declared drought in several regions, in what’s considered a “false autumn” due to the heat.

This is ushering in a nightmarish scenario. And by all accounts, the situation is likely to worsen in the months to come. Since April,  India and Pakistan have suffered extreme spring heatwaves. The unprecedented April temperatures have led to critical water and electricity shortages.  North-west and central India experienced the hottest April in 122 years and in Pakistan’s Jacobabad, a city in Sindh province, the temperature hit recently, one of the highest April temperatures ever recorded in the world.  In Kashmir too, we had a surprisingly warm March and April, the two months which otherwise used to be drenched in rain and the consequent cold. The unduly warm March, April and May have caused deep concern about the creeping climate change, which is changing the nature of the seasons.  Though this should cause alarm, it isn’t.  Or at least to the extent where it could matter. India,  Pakistan and Bangladesh between them are home to around  1.7 billion people and any disruption in the climate pattern could severely impact them. So, the three countries, as well as other countries in the region need to wake up and work toward a global response to the looming catastrophe.

There is thus an urgent need for the world to come together and take remedial measures to pre-empt the catastrophe and the COP26 summit did play an important role in this direction.  In Kashmir too, climate change has led to considerable changes in weather patterns. Triggering alarm bells is the slowly shrinking glaciers that are the source of the Valley’s water bodies. But the factors causing climate change are global in nature and so any effort to reverse the damage has to be backed by the world. And this should be done sooner than later. The time is running out fast.

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