Record-breaking Heat Increased Vulnerability of Half of Delhi’s Population: WMO Report


Between March and May, Delhi experienced five heatwaves with record-breaking temperatures reaching up to 49.2 degrees Celsius which increased the vulnerability of half of the city’s population which lives in low-income, informal settlements, a report by the World Meteorological Department said. The report titled ‘United in Science’ released on Tuesday also cited a recent attribution study which concluded that climate change made this prolonged hot weather in Delhi 30 times more likely and that the same event would have been about 1 degree Celsius cooler in a pre-industrial climate.

The report said that by the 2050s, over 1.6 billion people living in over 970 cities will be regularly exposed to three-month average temperatures reaching at least 35 degrees Celsius. According to the WMO, the number of weather-related disasters has increased by a factor of five over the past 50 years, claiming on average the lives of 115 people and causing USD 202 million in losses daily.

The report showed greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise to record highs. Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary drop due to lockdowns. The ambition of emissions reduction pledges for 2030 needs to be seven times higher to be in line with the 1.5 degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, it said.

The past seven years were the warmest on record. There is a 48 per cent chance that during at least one year in the next five years, the annual mean temperature will temporarily be 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the 1850-1900 average. As global warming increases, “tipping points” in the climate system can not be ruled out, the WMO said in a statement. Cities that host billions of people and are responsible for up to 70 per cent of human-caused emissions will face increasing socio-economic impacts. The most vulnerable populations will suffer the most, said the report citing examples of extreme weather in different parts of the world this year.

“Floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency. Heatwaves in Europe. Colossal floods in Pakistan. Prolonged and severe droughts in China, the Horn of Africa and the United States. There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction,” said UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres. “This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction. Yet each year, we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse,” Guterres said in a video message.

“Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing have become more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change. We have seen this repeatedly this year with tragic effect. It is more important than ever that we scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate risks in vulnerable communities. That is why WMO is spearheading a drive to ensure Early Warnings for All in the next five years,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas.

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