Climate Change

Published on September 11th, 2017 | by James Ayre

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What Will Happen To Indian Subcontinent’s ~2 Billion People As Temperatures Soar?

September 11th, 2017 by  

One of the real riddles out there as regards the future effects of anthropogenic climate change is with regard to the inevitable mass migrations. The situation on the Indian subcontinent, in particular, really makes one wonder. Where do ~2 billion some people go when the region they are living in becomes truly uninhabitable?

In some of the hotter parts of the region, the day when it’s not possible to remain where one is without dying of heat stroke or dehydration probably isn’t that far off. The hottest parts of Pakistan, for instance — where temperatures of +125° Fahrenheit are already not that uncommon — would probably qualify on that count.

A number of recent studies have predicted that huge swathes of the Indian subcontinent, and neighboring parts of South Asia as well, could be uninhabitable by (or perhaps well before) 2100.

The thing to keep in mind about that prediction, though, is that the same situation holds true for many other parts of the world — including the relatively nearby regions of the Middle East, North Africa, and Southern Europe.

With that being the case, it’s not “just” a large portion of the nearly 2 billion people now living in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and neighboring countries that will be on the move on a mass scale. Peoples all throughout the Middle East, Africa, Southern Europe, and parts of Asia will be forced to migrate or die as well. And the situation in many parts of the Americas isn’t much different. Though, it doesn’t seem very likely that many living there will end up trying to migrate to Asia, Europe, Australia, or Africa.

Looking at the way that people deal with one another in even the best of times — and also looking at recent history of the last few hundred years or so of ethnic and religious violence (usually driven by resource constraints) in Asia, Europe, and Africa — the reality of these looming mass migrations doesn’t bode well.

It seems, in other words, that a global scale “repeat” of the Völkerwanderung of the late Roman Empire — which saw Germanic and Slavic peoples swarm into Europe and displace and/or kill off the “Europeans” of the time — is now gearing up.

Or perhaps it’ll be a situation like the one that accompanied the Late Bronze Age Collapse — which saw Celtic and other (mostly) “Indo-European” peoples mass migrate into Europe from Anatolia, the Near East, and elsewhere, and then swamp out and/or kill off many of the peoples living there at the time. Who can say at this point?

One thing that can probably can be said for sure, though, is that politicians and those in positions of power won’t likely speak honestly about the causes of the massive problems that they will be facing. Not publicly anyways.

Because doing so would mean telling people the one thing that they probably don’t want to hear more than anything else: The way of living that we’ve been pursuing over the last few hundred years has trashed the planet and the blowback has only now just begun. Or: Everything needs to change, cause the party’s over.

Modern political systems don’t really allow for that kind of blunt talk by politicians, do they?

With regard to rising temperatures on the Indian subcontinent, a recent study published in the journal Science Advances warns of “summer heat waves with levels of heat and humidity that exceed what humans can survive without protection” if extremely strong actions to immediately curtail global greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taken.

Phys.org provides more: “About 30% of the population across the region would be exposed to the scalding temperatures, up from 0% at present, the report added. The densely populated, rural farming regions of the subcontinent could be hit the hardest, where workers are exposed to heat with little or no chance to retreat to air-conditioning.

“… Pakistan continues to be one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, with its northern glaciers melting and population surging along with fast diminishing water supplies.”

The recent study notes that: “Deadly heat waves could begin within as little as a few decades to strike regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, including the fertile Indus and Ganges river basins that produce much of the region’s food supply.”

To drive home that point (the way that some of the hotter parts of the region are just barely remaining habitable), I’ll include a quote here from the Phys.org article from a fellow named Lakhmir Brahmani who apparently works in extreme +50° Celsius heat at construction sites to provide for his family.

Discussing why he doesn’t move his family to a cooler region, Brahmani states: “I have no house or personal land … we have no electricity. How could I go to (provincial capital) Quetta or other areas where the cost of a truck or tractor ride one way is Rs 10,000 ($95), which I hardly earn in a whole month?”

In other words, money and transportation are the barriers. For now. What happens when there’s nothing left to lose? What about young guys without family, who are already in that situation? It’s not a mystery why most of those who migrate across continents are young men. Nor is it a mystery why militias and criminal groups have a much easier time recruiting from amongst them. What happens when whole regions of people find themselves with nothing to lose?

Considering the subcontinent’s Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Baha’i followers, etc., I’m going to end things here with this line: “When Shiva dances, worlds burn.”

There are some very rough times ahead.

Image by Jalal Hameed Bhatti (some rights reserved)


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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



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