Health Impact of Climate Change


    In News

    • Recent Lancet Report stated that over 3,30,000 people died in India due to exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel combustion in 2020.


    Image Courtesy: WHO 

    Key Findings

    • About: 
      • The Report is named Countdown on health and climate change: health at the mercy of fossil fuels
      • It is the seventh annual global report. 
    • Effect on Temperature:
      • From 2000-2004 to 2017-2021, heat-related deaths increased by 55% in India.
    • Problematic actions of Government and Companies:
      • They continue to follow strategies that increasingly threaten the health and survival of all people alive today, and of future generations.
      • Subsidy: 
        • In 2019, India had a net negative carbon price, indicating that the government was effectively subsidising fossil fuels. 
        • India allocated a net 34 billion USD [around ?2,80,000 crore] to this in 2019 alone, equivalent to 37.5% of the country’s national health spending that year. 
      • Biomass and fossil fuels: 
        • Accounted for 61% of household energy in 2019, while fossil fuels accounted for another 20%. 
        • With this high reliance on these fuels, average household concentrations of particulate matter exceeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation by 27-fold nationally and 35-fold in rural homes.
    • Urban Centres: 
      • In India, 45% of urban centres are classified as moderately green or above. 
    • Economic Loss:
      • In 2021, Indians lost 16,720 crore potential labour hours due to heat exposure with income losses equivalent to about 5.4% of national GDP.
    • Health Impacts:
      • Dengue: 
        • For India, from 1951-1960 to 2012-2021, the number of months suitable for dengue transmission by Aedes Aegypti rose by 1.69%, reaching 5.6 months each year.
      • Heatwave: 
        • From 2012-2021, infants under one year old experienced a higher number of heatwave days.
        • For the same period, adults over 65 experienced 301 million more person-days. 
          • This means that, on average, from 2012-2021, each infant experienced an additional 0.9 heatwave days per year while adults over 65 experienced an additional 3.7 per person, compared to 1986-2021.
        • From 2000-2004 to 2017-2021, heat-related deaths increased by 55% in India.
    • Agriculture: 
      • The duration of the growth season for maize has decreased by 2%, compared to a 1981-2010 baseline.
      • Rice and winter wheat have each decreased by 1%.
    • Negative exposure: 
      • Households are exposed to energy poverty, and dangerous levels of air pollution

    What is Particulate Matter (PM?

    • Particulate matter (PM) are inhalable and respirable particles composed of sulphate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water.
    • PM2.5:
      • PM2.5, particulate matter consisting of fine aerosol particles measuring 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter, is one of six routinely measured criteria air pollutants .
      • It is commonly accepted as the most harmful to human health due to its prevalence in the environment and the broad range of health effects.
      • It is generated from many sources and can vary in chemical composition and physical characteristics. 
      • Common chemical constituents of PM2.5 include sulphates, nitrates, black carbon, and ammonium. 
      • The most common human-made sources include internal combustion engines, power generation, industrial processes, agricultural processes, construction, and residential wood and coal burning. The most common natural sources for PM2.5 are dust storms, sandstorms, and wildfires.

    Image Courtesy: CDC 


    Way Ahead

    • Urban redesign that puts health first can provide increased green space that reduces urban heat, improves air quality, and benefits physical and mental health.
    • Improvement in air quality will help to prevent deaths resulting from exposure to fossil fuel-derived particulate matter.
    • States should start adapting and implementing heat action plans in each city. For instance, the Ahmedabad heat action plan that has shown mortality can be reduced, should be adapted everywhere.
    • The burning of dirty fuels needs to be minimised as soon as possible to reduce the accompanying health impacts.
    • Global warming and climate change is intricately related to human health and India needs to do something seriously in this space.

    Source: TH