Boston: Nearly 1.5 billion people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are likely to face deadly heat waves within the next few decades due to climate change, exposing them to unsurvivable temperatures and widespread food crisis, an MIT study has warned.
Scientists predicted that by the end of this century climate change could lead to severe summer heat waves in South Asia, a region of deep poverty where one-fifth of the world's population resides.
There is still time to avert such severe warming if measures are implemented now to reduce the most dire consequences of global warming, researchers said. However, without significant reductions in carbon emissions, the heat waves could begin within as little as a few decades to strike the fertile Indus and Ganges river basins that produce much of the region's food supply, they said.
The areas likely to be hardest hit in northern India, Bangladesh and southern Pakistan are home to 1.5 billion people.
These areas are also among the poorest in the region, with much of the population dependent on subsistence farming that requires long hours of hard labour out in the open and unprotected from the Sun.
"That makes them very vulnerable to these climatic changes," said Elfatih Eltahir, from MIT. While the projections show the Persian Gulf may become the region of the worst heat waves on the planet, northern India is a close second, Eltahir said, and eastern China, also densely populated, is third. The highest concentrations of heat in the Persian Gulf would be out over the waters of the Gulf itself, with lesser levels over inhabited land.