Venturing outdoors may become deadly across wide swaths of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh by the end of the century as climate change drives heat and humidity to new extremes, according to a new study. These conditions could affect up to a third of the people living throughout the region unless the global community ramps up efforts to rein in climate-warming emissions, the AP reports. Today, that vast region is home to some 1.5 billion people. "The most intense hazard from extreme future heat waves is concentrated around the densely populated agricultural regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins," wrote the authors of the study, led by former MIT research scientist Eun-Soon Im.
While most climate studies have been based on temperature projections, this one— published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances—is somewhat unique in also considering humidity as well as the body's ability to cool down in response, which are key factor in South Asia's climate. Most of those at risk in the region are poor farmworkers or outdoor construction laborers. They are unlikely to have air conditioners—up to 25% of India's population still has no access to electricity. "What we see in this study is a convergence of intense weather projections and acute vulnerability," co-author and MIT environmental engineering professor Elfatih A.B. Eltahir says. (Read more climate change stories.)