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Heatwave warnings as records broken in Asia

As record-breaking temperatures sear swathes of Asia, a study has revealed that climate change caused an average of 26 days of extreme heat across the world last year – the hottest year on record.

A joint report by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, World Weather Attribution (WWA), and Climate Central found more than three quarters of the world’s population were endangered by burning heat waves in 2023, most caused by global warming – a process driven by the burning of fossil fuels, largely by high-income countries. It identified 76 extreme heat waves across 90 countries, putting 6.3 billion people at risk, in particular infants, people with health problems, and outdoor labourers.

“This report provides overwhelming scientific evidence that extreme heat is a deadly manifestation of the climate crisis,” said Aditya V. Bahadur, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “This wreaks havoc on human health, critical infrastructure, the economy, agriculture and the environment, thereby eroding gains in human development and decreasing well-being – especially for poor and marginalised communities in the Global South.” 

Risky in themselves, extreme heatwaves are also complicating dire humanitarian situations. Myanmar – currently gripped by civil war – recorded its highest-ever temperature of 48.2°C on 28 April. Heatwaves in Mali and Burkina Faso, also struggling with conflict and instability, would not have been possible without climate change, according to WWA. And in Gaza, unusually hot weather is complicating the strained relief effort, increasing the pressure on tight water supplies. At least two children are believed to have died as a result of the heat in the bombarded territory, according to UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees. 

Meanwhile, authorities in New Delhi, India have been forced to ration water as the mercury rose to its highest-ever reading of 49.9°C. For more on how poor women, in particular, bear the brunt of heatwaves in India, read our July 2023 news feature.

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