The analysis also looked at the effects of prolonged heat. Arpita Mondal, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in Mumbai and author of the study, said collecting data on the effects on wheat, a crop sensitive to extreme heat, was difficult, despite anecdotal reports of damage.
“But what was quite surprising was that India banned its wheat exports to the rest of the world,” she said. “That in itself is proof enough that our agricultural productivity has been affected.”
The ban, coupled with the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on wheat exports from there, has international agencies worried about the possibility of a global food shortage.
Another author, Roop Singh, climate risk adviser at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said that like other heatwaves, this one shows the effects tend to disproportionately affect poor people.
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She said there have been reports of widespread power outages, partly because the need for more cooling is straining the system, and partly because of a shortage of coal in India. “This has a particular impact on poorer people who might have access to a fan or a cooler, but might not be able to operate it because they cannot afford a generator” , she said.
The study’s findings are consistent with many other analyzes of similar events over the past two decades, including an extraordinary heat wave last summer in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. This area of research, called attribution analysis, has contributed to a growing understanding among scientists and the public that the adverse effects of global warming are not a distant problem but are already happening.
Because emissions have increased the global reference temperature, the link between heat waves and climate change is particularly clear. Dr Otto said that in studies of other extreme events like floods or droughts, climate change is usually only one factor among many.