Research suggests that by the end of this century, climate change could bring about global warming that poses severe health risks, including heat strokes and heart attacks, in densely populated regions like India and the Indus valley.

Interdisciplinary research conducted by Penn State College of Health and Human Development, Purdue University College of Sciences, and Purdue Institute for a Sustainable Future, published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” warns that if the planet warms beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it will have dire consequences for human health.

Human bodies have limits in terms of tolerable combinations of heat and humidity, beyond which they can experience heat-related health issues such as heat strokes and heart attacks.

The study indicates that if global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 2.2 billion residents of the Indus River Valley in Pakistan and India, 1 billion people in eastern China, and 800 million in sub-Saharan Africa will face heat levels exceeding human tolerance.

Cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Shanghai, Multan, Nanjing, and Wuhan are expected to be severely affected by this annual heatwave. Since many of these areas are in low and middle-income countries, residents may lack access to air-conditioning or other effective cooling methods.

If global warming continues to reach 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, extreme heat could also impact regions in the United States, including the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest, along with parts of South America and Australia.

However, developed nations are likely to experience fewer adverse effects compared to developing nations, where vulnerable populations may face higher mortality rates.

Matthew Huber, co-author of the research paper and Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, highlighted, “The worst heat stress will occur in regions that are not wealthy and that are expected to experience rapid population growth in the coming decades.”

Despite contributing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than wealthier nations, these countries will suffer the most. To mitigate these consequences, the researchers emphasize the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion. Failure to make these changes will disproportionately impact middle-income and low-income countries.

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