The Cool Down
Scientists are sounding the alarm about a dangerous problem that will soon affect 2 billion people — here’s what to know
Laurelle Stelle – September 15, 2023
As the world has gotten hotter, more people are exposed to dangerously high temperatures each year. Recent findings published in Nature Sustainability show that without policy changes, the world will heat up enough by the end of the century that more than 2 billion people will live in life-threatening hot climates, as Science Hub reported.
So far, the world’s average temperature has risen by just under 1.2 degrees Celsius (about 2 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial level due to human activity, according to Science Hub. The Paris Agreement — an international treaty to limit heat-trapping gases produced by each country and stop the world from getting hotter — proposed to cap the increase at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, the new study found that with the current laws, population growth, and environmental conditions, the world will likely reach about 4.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial benchmark, per Science Hub.
The researchers then looked at which areas would be most affected if the temperature increased to that level. They defined “unprecedented heat” zones as areas where the average temperature throughout the year, counting all seasons, is 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Science Hub reported that 40 years ago, only 12 million people worldwide lived in regions with temperatures surpassing that heat. Today, thanks to the warming we’ve already experienced, about 60 million people are affected.
The study found that by 2100, 2 billion out of the world’s projected population of 9.5 billion will live in areas with an average temperature higher than 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The most affected areas will be countries around the equator, noted Science Hub: India, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Pakistan.
Why is this heating worrisome?
The hotter the world gets, the more heat waves, droughts, and wildfires we experience. As Science Hub reported, studies have also linked the rising heat to everything from more contagious diseases to lower labor efficiency and more conflict between people.
“That’s a profound reshaping of the habitability of the surface of the planet, and could lead potentially to the large-scale reorganization of where people live,” study author Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, told ScienceAlert.
What’s being done?
Science Hub reported that if the global community reaches the goal set by the Paris Agreement, the affected population would be limited to half a billion people instead of 2 billion.
In the meantime, individuals can protect themselves from heat waves with these tips for cooling off.