Lives of working people are unbearable in extreme heatwave

Heat Wave

Extreme heatwaves are blowing over southeast Asia. People of India and Bangladesh are heavily suffering from this. Desert like environment is felt by the residents of these countries. Doctors are suggesting to reduce outdoor activities as much as we can. Many of us have that opportunity. At our workplace or home, we have the privilege to stay under a roof to have some shadow, have a cool fridge, maybe an AC too. But not everyone is as lucky as us. They are bound to go out for their daily bread.

 Working class people can’t sit in a comfortable place and have some good summer vibe. They don’t have the scope to cool themselves whenever they can. They are suffering the most from this extreme weather. If you go out, you will see rickshaw pullers, construction workers, hawkers, and other working peoples’ bodies are fully wet with their sweat. You can also see that some of them are drinking soft drinks or bottled juices though doctors are prescribing not to drink those. These drinks can give a quick relief and comfort but it will make them dehydrated soon. If they would drink normal water or fruit juice with safe water, that would be better for them. But unfortunately, they don’t have that scope all the time and they are not aware of this. Already people are dying due to this extreme heatwave. In Bangladesh, rickshaw pullers, farmers, a press worker have died in different parts of the country due to heat related issues.  

 Amidst this extreme event, IMO has published a report on April 22, 2024 titled “Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate”. According to the ILO report, at least 2.41 billion workers (70.9 percent of the global workforce) are exposed annually to excessive heat. And, every year, an estimated 22.85 million occupational injuries, 18,970 deaths and 2.09 million disability-adjusted life years are attributable to excessive heat alone. The report says, climate change is there to blame for these extreme weather events and unwanted effects. So, what are we seeing now? The effects of climate change are more than real for a couple of years now. We are just seeing and feeling the real picture of what scientists have predicted and warned many years ago. And, who are the most affected people here? The working people. But they have the least effect on climate change!

 Carbon emission is one of the main causes of climate change. Oxfam published a campaign report on the last part of 2023 titled “Climate Equality: A planet for the 99%”. The Guardian wrote mentioning this report –

“The richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

The most comprehensive study of global climate inequality ever undertaken shows that this elite group, made up of 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those paid more than US$140,000 (£112,500) a year, accounted for 16% of all CO2 emissions in 2019 – enough to cause more than a million excess deaths due to heat, according to the report.

… The Oxfam report shows that while the wealthiest 1% tend to live climate-insulated, air-conditioned lives, their emissions – 5.9bn tonnes of CO2 in 2019 – are responsible for immense suffering.

… The UN says developing countries account for 91% of deaths related to extreme weather.

The report finds that it would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99% to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year.

… The extravagant carbon footprint of the 0.1% – from superyachts, private jets and mansions to space flights and doomsday bunkers – is 77 times higher than the upper level needed for global warming to peak at 1.5C.”

So, we can clearly see who are mostly responsible for climate change and who are paying the cost most. Flood, drought, cyclone, forest fire, and other extreme weather events are making the lives of the poor people hellish. They are losing their homes, schools, lands, etc. They are becoming migrants in the blink of an eye. These poor families don’t have much savings for bad days like the riches. As a result, they have to run for odd jobs, have to lose their values and many more to just live another day. Social distress is also increasing for this.

As the residents of South Asia, we have more bad news as this part of the world is currently suffering most due to climate change. Just yesterday (April 23, 2024) World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published the “State of the Climate in Asia 2023” report. According to this report, Asia remained the world’s most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2023. Floods and storms caused the highest number of reported casualties and economic losses, whilst the impact of heatwaves became more severe in this region.

“The report’s conclusions are sobering. Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms. Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives and the environment that we live in,” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo.

Life of the working people will be more troublesome in the upcoming days. But still the world leaders couldn’t take effective measures collectively to fight this situation. Still fossil fuels are burning at high rates. Still, carbon emissions are increasing. And, these are increasing on an unprecedented level. Countries like Bangladesh are urging the world leaders to spend on the mitigation of the effects of climate change rather than spending the money on war. But the war is going on continuously.

So, just talks and mere reports are not enough anymore. Not just eye-washing steps, we need a collective scientific approach to solve this problem. If we care about common people, if we care about the next generations of people, if we care about all lives of the earth, we must work in a planned and disciplined manner. We can take some small initiatives personally against climate change but if we can’t stand together on this cause, we can’t fight this monster.

Burning question for us is – Can we stop the devastating future if we can’t raise our voice collectively to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions, burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and so on. Can we save the planet if just a few people put money over the environment and most of the common people suffer from that?  

Anower Jahan Shofol is a software Engineer and environment enthusiast from Dhaka, Bangladesh.   

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