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As Blistering Heat Engulfs India, Air Conditioning Brings Respite but Comes at a Cost

2 months ago
Featured image for the article "As Blistering Heat Engulfs India, Air Conditioning Brings Respite but Comes at a Cost"

Under the scorching sun, Ramesh toiled away, laying bricks, trying to ignore the beads of sweat rolling down his back. At 34 years old, he was used to labouring under India's relentless heat.

But this summer felt different. The temperatures in Delhi, where Ramesh lives with his extended family, topped 40°C daily. He started feeling faint while working, his body seemingly unable to bear the extreme heat.

When he got home each evening, his elderly parents, young children, and siblings all complained of headaches, dizziness, and nausea - clear signs of heat exhaustion.

Desperate for relief, Ramesh made a difficult financial decision - he borrowed money to purchase a second-hand air conditioner. Though noisy and dusty, that AC was the only way his family could cope as temperatures soared outside their crowded home.

Ramesh's experience demonstrates the paradox India faces as climate change intensifies. By 2050, India will be one of the first places where temperatures routinely exceed survivability limits, scientists warn.

The natural reaction to such extreme heat is to turn to air conditioning. But as more Indians adopt ACs to stay cool, the country's emissions will skyrocket, further contributing to global warming.

This dilemma highlights the unfair burden placed on developing nations like India.

Today, India accounts for just 7% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, despite having over 1.4 billion people - more than the entire population of the North and South American continents combined. The average Indian is responsible for a fraction of the emissions of the average American.

Yet, places like India and sub-Saharan Africa will suffer the most from climate change in the coming years.

Deadly heat waves are predicted to become commonplace in India by 2050. If climate change continues unabated, over a billion people in South Asia may be afflicted by "unsurvivable" heat indexes above 51°C.


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