Heat Waves in China
On July 12, 2022, dozens of cities in eastern and southern China issued high alerts as the temperature exceeded more than 107 degrees Fahrenheit. These scorching heat waves in China are forecasted to persist for weeks. Unfortunately, this is not the first time China has experienced heat waves. Since 1990, heat waves in China have increased mortality rates, which reached 26,800 deaths in 2019 alone. These heat waves highlight the growing concern about extreme weather patterns as each year, natural disasters like floods have been becoming more common and dangerous. In southern China, floods have affected the lives of half a million people, killing hundreds and displacing many more in 2021. As the world’s largest carbon emission producer, China’s steps toward alleviating climatic hazards play a key role in the future of the planet.

Climatic Hazards in China

In the past decades, China has transformed its farmlands into cities, booming its economy and lifting millions of people out of poverty. In 2020, 0% of the population was below the national poverty line. However, rapid economic advancements in China have resulted in it producing more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world, according to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Experts have predicted that these changes in the climate would result in more extreme weather events like floods and heat waves, which are currently taking hold of many cities in China.

As natural hazards affect one-third of agricultural land, those living in “ecologically fragile areas” in China are the most vulnerable to climatic hazards and are thus more likely to return to poverty or be poverty-stricken. A lack of infrastructure and resources makes it difficult for remote areas in China to adapt or cope with disasters. In the cities, climatic hazards weaken the population’s well-being as air pollution alone contributes to an annual 1.2 million deaths.

Heat Waves’ Impacts on the Economy

The recent heat waves in China have left a major manufacturing region calling for businesses and households to use less power. Meanwhile, pork prices are rising because of fear of crop failure causing consumer inflation to rise. According to the National Development and Reform Commission, hog prices increased by 46% since March and a number of feed producers warned that there would be an increase in pig, poultry and fish prices, CNN reported.

The heat waves in China have forced businesses to ration power, posing a challenge to manufacturing industries as they still continue to recover from the pandemic lockdowns. In recent GDP data that China published, the expected economic growth for April-June 2022 dwindled from 4.8% to 1%, according to CNN.

China’s Solution

China’s president, Xi Jinping, pledged to tackle these extreme weather conditions and make it a national priority in 2020. Beijing’s goals in addressing this issue include achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, reaching peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030, and boosting forest coverage by around 6 billion cubic meters and more, according to CFR.

However, these goals may not be ambitious enough. Experts have pointed out that the goals do not align with the Paris Agreement as China would need to reach peak carbon emission by 2025 to meet the Paris accord’s goals, CFR reported. Additionally, carbon emissions are not decreasing at the necessary pace to reach the ideal temperature target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Still, China has exceeded most of the targets that it set out in 2015. Energy consumption of coal has dropped from 70% to 57% in the past decade and in 2019, China had half the world’s electric vehicles and 98% of electric buses, according to The Conversation. China is also becoming greener faster than any other country largely due to forestry programs that help reduce soil erosion and pollution.

Looking Ahead

While China’s targets lack ambition and a set cap on emissions, there is a chance for China to enhance its contributions to tackling heat waves. Pressure is mounting up on China as numerous countries, especially India and other developing countries, increased their pledges and with China’s position as a leader in the developing world, Beijing would likely make more aggressive targets.

Cooperation between China and other countries is also key in fighting extreme weather conditions. In 2021, the U.S and China have made a joint declaration in working together to combat the crisis. China is also open to working with Japan and South Korea in addressing environmental issues through yearly meetings with these countries, CFR reported.

The recent heat waves in China highlight the imperativeness to ramp up action toward fighting extreme weather conditions. More ambitious targets and accelerated progress in China would not only mean protecting the health and economic stability of citizens but also preserving the future of the world.

– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Jacobabad
For people within Jacobabad, a city in the Sindh province of Pakistan, May 2022 marks the peak of the latest heat wave. By May 16, 2022, the temperature in the city reached 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 Fahrenheit). The city’s water canals, which are essential for irrigating farms in order to grow crops for food, have dried as a result of the heat waves. Dr. Ammad Ullah from the Jacobabad MS civil hospital told the Guardian that an “estimated that 50 to 60 people are getting heat stroke every day.” This could push more citizens into poverty in a city where “most of the million people” living there are already in poverty. According to the 2018-19 Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES), almost 22% of Pakistan’s population lives in poverty. Despite the dire situation in Jacobabad, efforts are underway to combat the extreme heat wave and poverty in Jacobabad. The Pakistani government is taking steps to address the environmental crisis in Jacobabad and the country at large to prevent an increase in poverty.

How Heat Waves Increase Poverty in Jacobabad

The very high temperatures experienced by the people of Jacobabad in May 2022 pushed them further into poverty. For example, citizens in Jacobabad acknowledge that work and school are proven pathways out of poverty. However, the heat waves have made working and schooling difficult with children fainting during class and workers on the edge of vomiting during work. In this way, the extreme heat wave and poverty in Jacobabad impact the livelihoods of locals and the futures of children.

The Pakistani Government’s Efforts

The Pakistani government is attempting to mitigate the extreme heat wave and poverty in Jacobabad by pursuing environmental solutions. On May 17, 2022, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, said that the government has formed a national task force to lead “disaster management efforts” to keep the temperatures low. During this time, the government responded by promptly setting up 1,000 heat wave centers in the Sindh and Punjab provinces. Aside from saving lives, the heat wave centers will allow citizens to return to school and their jobs, which, in turn, will reduce poverty in Jacobabad.

On May 30, 2022, Rehman met with the country director of the World Bank, Najy Benhassine, to discuss the current World Bank projects in Pakistan. The World Bank’s climate initiatives are particularly important in Pakistan, considering the impacts of the heat wave in Pakistan’s city of Jacobabad. On the topic of large projects in Pakistan in general, Rehman encourages a “move toward a more sound water strategy in Pakistan” and “an effort to move from pilot projects [that] look good on paper toward the scaling up of outcomes.” Rehman also highlights a need for public awareness campaigns in Pakistan so that more people understand the severity of extreme weather conditions.

Looking Ahead

The situation in Jacobabad is severe due to the heat wave’s impacts on poverty and food security along with its consequences on health, education and jobs. However, the attention Jacobabad receives from international media and humanitarian organizations illustrates a strong will to assist Jacobabad’s people. The Pakistani government also responded quickly by setting up heat waves centers and implementing disaster management efforts. This shows the determination on the part of Pakistani leaders to address the situation in Jacobabad and bring down the poverty rate despite the immense challenges the nation faces.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Pixabay

Heat wave in Pakistan
Since late April 2022, Pakistan has been suffering from an unprecedented heat wave with temperatures touching 50 C (122 F). Although heat waves in Pakistan have been a common occurrence since 2015, these climatic conditions are touching the country earlier each year and their intensity and duration are increasing due to extreme weather patterns. This meteorological phenomenon severely affects the Pakistani people in several ways, from health issues to food, water and infrastructural crises. With temperatures standing at 6-9 C higher than usual for this time of year, the heat wave in Pakistan is affecting cities and rural areas and has lethal effects on children and the elderly.

Consequences on Health

The heat wave in Pakistan is threatening the health of the Pakistani people, especially the most vulnerable groups. With the unusual increase in temperatures, on May 14, 2022, the country already declared three deaths among children due to the severe heat.

The country observed cases of children collapsing under the sun. The poverty in which many regions and families live in Pakistan forces children to often walk to school amid this unbearable heat. Also, many schools do not have proper climatization to allow the students to attend their classes in a cool environment.

To address the effects of the heat wave on people’s health, an NGO opened a heatstroke clinic in Jacobabad and noted rising cases of heatstroke patients. Heatstroke occurs when the body overheats and cannot cool itself anymore, leading to several symptoms ranging from headaches and nausea to more serious effects such as organ swelling and unconsciousness. Despite this, students continue to go to school with the hope of escaping poverty and moving toward a better quality of life. Besides children, the extreme weather affects laborers who spend their days under the sun, but unfortunately, have no alternative if they want to earn enough money to survive.

Food and Water Crisis

Other consequences of the heat wave in Pakistan are food and water scarcity. With very high temperatures and insufficient water, the crop and food supply are in danger. The heat wave in Pakistan also affects livestock that are essential to the food supply of the country —  many sheep have died from heatstroke in Punjab, a province that stands as the breadbasket of Pakistan.

The water crisis is a critical aspect of the heat wave in Pakistan. As government-installed taps are mostly dried out, people find it very difficult to find drinking water. Unfortunately, mafias are benefiting from this situation by exploiting government water reserves and reselling them to those in impoverished and underserved regions.

The lack of access to sufficient water supplies is thus a primary cause of the health issues people endure and makes the heat wave even more unbearable. Furthermore, with a power shortage that only allows for six hours of daily electricity in the county’s rural areas, citizens struggle to cope with the heat.

Ironically, excess water can also harm many people. Pakistan is “home to more than 7,000 glaciers,” the melting of which can lead to the overflowing of lakes and rivers and cause “torrents of ice, rock and water” to destroy the infrastructure of a city. This already happened once this year, in early May, causing the destruction of a bridge.

Taking Action

Given the urgency of the situation, two NGOs are playing an essential role in helping people to survive the heat wave in Pakistan. Both are mainly located in the Sindh province, one of the areas that the extreme weather situation most affected. The first NGO is the Community Development Foundation, which opened a new health center dedicated to victims of heatstroke.

The Pakistan Red Crescent, in collaboration with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, launched a 10-day training for officials and civil society representatives to learn how to adequately respond to “heat-related emergencies,” such as heatstroke, unconsciousness and dehydration as well as the transportation of patients suffering from any of these issues. The Pakistan Red Crescent also promised to continue with similar training in the future, especially with the younger generation.

The case of Pakistan shows that despite all the crises and challenges a population living under extreme weather patterns must face, support from organizations can make all the difference. By training people to respond to health emergencies, the Pakistan Red Crescent diminishes the pressure on health care professionals and increases the chances of people surviving heat-related health conditions. Despite these severe conditions, children continue to go to school with the hope of receiving an education that will enable them to rise out of poverty.

– Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Unsplash

India’s Scorched Wheat Crops
An intense recent heatwave in India has scorched a multitude of wheat crops, in the second-largest wheat-growing country in the world. India’s scorched wheat crops have significantly reduced yields for growers and have shaken up the export requirements that they typically produce. This makes it an issue for the rest of the world that is attempting to alleviate a shortage across the globe.

Record High Temperatures

It all started in March 2022, when temperatures reached record highs of 104 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901. In April, the temperatures reached a high of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some of India’s northern and central regions, where lots of wheat fields can be found in those areas. The damage to their growing cycle began during the winter when they received lots of unseasonable rain this year.

Expert Export Predictions Dropped

India’s scorched wheat crops discourage many as they rely heavily on their exports and shriveled and damaged grains depleted production levels. Last year, with the fiscal year ending in March 2022, India exported 8.7 million tons of wheat, according to CNBC. Its government predicted record-high production this year, amounting to approximately 122 million tons of wheat in 2022. However, the heatwave has caused record high temperatures that have occurred well into the country’s harvest time.

Wheat Becomes Unaffordable

This heatwave is causing an issue for many low-income individuals living in India. Wheat prices will shoot up and become unaffordable for many citizens to purchase. With everything currently going on in Ukraine, prices of Indian crops will also see a record high, as Ukraine and India account for almost a third of wheat exports globally. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has predicted that from 2022 to 2023, the number of undernourished individuals will increase by 8 to 13 million people with the largest increases in Asia-Pacific.

Record Low Yields

This event has caused major issues for local Indian farmers as yields reached record lows for a very long time. India’s scorched wheat crops also led to the government’s supplies dropping in quantity as well. Additionally, private traders hoarding wheat intensified the already existing issues, further driving up the prices of wheat and flour by an extra 40% recently, according to The Guardian. Many people who are malnourished face dramatic circumstances that can lead to health issues they cannot afford to control.

Making Changes Immediately

With India’s scorched wheat crops during the wheat’s crucial “grain filling” stage, which is critical for producing large yields, many are left wondering what may happen next. However, many cities in India have learned their lessons from previous heat waves and have created measures that they are taking during this time around. They are limiting office hours for working individuals and applying early warning systems. Schools are going into lock-downs, changing school hours, having annual summer vacations and bringing back the COVID-19 pandemic-era online classes. These measures aim to save the lives of students since fainting is prominent during these heat spells and air-conditioning is unaffordable.

Positive Outlook on the Future

Government officials have learned many lessons because of India’s scorched wheat crops this year. Going forward, they will follow precautions that may help lots of low-income individuals deal with such harsh weather patterns in the future.

– Christina Papas
Photo: Flickr

Impact of Poverty on Coping with Jacobabad’s Heatwave
The city of Jacobabad in Pakistan is currently experiencing a heatwave that is “hotter than the human body can handle,” per Ben Farmer in The Telegraph on June 28, 2021. The temperatures can reach up to 52 degrees Celsius, or nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit. When measured using “wet bulb” techniques, which measure not just heat but humidity, Jacobabad is one of only two places in the world that has crossed a point where humans cannot sweat enough to cool themselves down. Put another way, Jacobabad’s heatwave is something that the human body literally cannot withstand.

Many residents of the city cannot afford air conditioning, and some must venture outside, despite the dangers, because their jobs demand it. Even those who can afford air conditioning are in danger due to frequent power cuts. This means that the impact of poverty on coping with Jacobabad’s heatwave can be life-threatening; the hospitals in the city can fill up with heat-stroke victims during the summer. “People are aware that the heat is getting up and up, but they are poor people. They can’t go anywhere, they can’t leave their places,” Zahid Hussain, a market trader, stated.

New Ways of Keeping Cool

Because of how expensive energy is for many residents, people are finding new ways of keeping cool. For example, roadside stalls sell ice in “10p chunks.” The chunks have been mass-produced in factories across Pakistan; for years as the heat in Jacobabad has continued to rise, so too does the need to escape it. Many markets also sell hand fans, which are far cheaper to produce and buy compared to electric fans.

Hospitals and Energy Access – Solutions

USAID has been active in the city for years, building the Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS) to provide better medical care. Due to a large number of heatstroke victims, new hospital beds serve as essential assets to the city. The USAID effort also seeks to update infrastructure, building and repairing many health care facilities.

Many organizations are working to combat energy poverty. For example, Sustainable Energy for All (SEForAll) is an organization that works with the United Nations, as well as private companies, to spread energy access to poorer countries. Initiatives address the impact of increasing heat and its possible deadly effects, with SEForAll publishing a story on the Pakistani city of Karachi, which faced similar problems to Jacobabad earlier in 2021. Jacobabad’s heatwave was not a specific focus of the organization; however, by campaigning and advocating for causes similar to it, and trying to bring energy access to cities like it, SEForAll is improving the possibility that Jacobabad’s problems may receive attention.

A New Focus

At the same time, Ben Farmer, when contacted, said there was, to his knowledge, no NGO activity in the city specifically to combat the impact of poverty on coping with Jacobabad’s heatwave. Despite the ingenuity shown by the city’s residents in keeping cool, the problem would still be able to greatly reduce due to foreign aid.

The lack of meaningful aid suggests an unnecessary vacuum in Jacobabad that organizations can fill. While NGO efforts are meaningful, it is key to note that the city’s efforts prioritize citizens and their health. As Jacobabad faces its heat-related challenges head-on, efforts to help must prioritize the people to build on current work toward a safer future.

– Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

Heat in developing countries
Earth is getting warmer every day and the heat in developing countries can be fatal. There are ways to take the edge off – air-conditioned rooms, pools and shade – and make even the hottest days bearable. This is not to say that Americans are completely safe from heat-related deaths – it kills 800 people per year, disproportionately affecting people of color and migrant workers. Although this number may seem small compared to the toll of cancer and strokes, any deaths from overheating are unacceptable. They are easily preventable with proper education and access to the right information and technologies.

The Dangers of Overheating

However, in countries like India and in the deserts of Africa, where temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the dangers of overheating are everyday realities. The effects of overheating on a population are difficult to measure because overheating exacerbates other diseases. Symptoms affect the heart (causing irregular rhythm), immune system (decreasing white blood cell count) and cause dehydration, which has innumerable other effects. Statisticians estimate that between 1998-2017, over 160,000 people died as a direct result of overheating and heatwaves worldwide. Technologies such as air conditioners would reduce deaths due to heat in developing countries and improve the livelihoods of people. Unfortunately, barriers such as high cost and the unavailability of electricity remain in developing countries. Luckily, several organizations are working to find ways to mitigate these barriers.

Reducing Heat-Induced Deaths

  • The World Health Organization (WHO): WHO already does much to help reduce poverty. It also takes on the challenge of reducing heat in developing countries. WHO looks at how to compactly design buildings with fewer levels to lower cooling costs. It investigates investment into insulation and the positive economic impacts of finding new markets for air conditioning companies. The Maghreb, a region of North Africa, could particularly benefit from an overhaul of cooling systems because of its rich natural resources. This would incentivize more workers to move there, bringing profit to all.
  • Rocky Mountain Institute: RMI aims to reduce the effect of air conditioners on the environment. These environmental effects often impact poorer communities in particular. Typical AC units run on electricity provided by fossil fuels. These fossil fuels warm the planet, creating a positive feedback loop. Providing everyone with access to air conditioners, therefore, as many organizations are doing, may not be enough. People also need to stop organizations from warming the earth and increasing demand even further. The institute concluded that the world needs units that are at least five times as powerful as they are now while using the same amount of energy, and electricity that comes from either solar panels or wind turbines.

Keeping people safe from the real danger of heat in developing countries is a necessary step to increasing productivity and saving lives. Fortunately, heat-related deaths are preventable if well-equipped countries assist third world economies to start producing the technologies that people need, such as air conditioners.

Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr