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Officials issue warning as heat-related illnesses and deaths surge amid dangerously high temperatures: 'Facing an emergency situation'

"I want to appeal to (the) people of Delhi."

"I want to appeal to (the) people of Delhi."

Photo Credit: iStock

India suffered from a surge of heat-related deaths and illnesses as record temperatures hit the country in spring 2024.

What's happening?

At least 79 people died from smoldering heat in India in late May 2024, as daytime temperatures hovered around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures stayed around 90, the Washington Post reported. Among the deaths were a police officer who collapsed in the midday sun and 55 people in the desert state of Rajasthan.

At least 103 others were admitted to an Aurangabad hospital on the evening of May 30 for heat-related illnesses, with five of them dead by morning. In addition to the scorching heat, the country also suffered from a wave of fires that damaged homes and a water crisis in Delhi because of reduced flow on the Yamuna River. 

"I want to appeal to (the) people of Delhi," the city's water minister, who goes by Atishi, said in a news conference where she scolded some wealthy residents for wasting water. "Right now, Delhi is facing an emergency situation because of the heat wave."

According to the Post, the heat waves across India were caused by short-term weather patterns in combination with the impacts of an overheating planet.

Why are India's heat waves concerning?

While hot weather has always existed, scientists agree that we will see these kinds of heat waves more often as our planet continues to heat up. Each decade since the 1980s has been hotter than the previous one, according to the United Nations, and these hotter temperatures increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths.

Aside from India, oppressive heat waves also grappled cities across the globe in May 2024, raising concerns because of how early in the season they hit. For instance, Miami's May 17 heat advisory was the earliest such warning for the city in 15 years. Meanwhile, many Mexican cities broke heat records earlier that month, with electrical blackouts that lasted hours in some cases.

Steadily climbing "new normals" are also affecting wildlife. For instance, warmer temperatures are killing off bumblebee colonies. This is bad news for humans and bees alike, as bumblebees are important pollinators of many crops, including cucumbers and strawberries.

What's being done about a warming planet?

In order to curb the overheating of our planet and the consequences it brings, it's important to cut our use of dirty fuel sources like natural gas, coal, and oil — these three sources alone account for more than 75% of all planet-warming pollution. 

A number of companies are taking a stand against dirty energy with greener policies that are better for the planet. For instance, some of the world's biggest companies, including Microsoft, Walmart, Apple, and Meta, are now America's biggest corporate solar energy users. Plus, megabank HSBC announced it will no longer finance oil and gas fields.

You can help by changing the way you power your life. Unplugging vampire appliances that are not in use is one way to conserve energy and reduce the amount of carbon pollution you produce. You can also switch to clean, renewable energy sources by opting in to community solar or investing in your own rooftop solar panels

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