Climate change amplifying health impacts of multiple crises, says The Lancet report ahead of COP27
Anuradha Mascarenhas | Originally published by Indian Express
Ahead of this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP27), a major new report has said that the continued dependence on fossil fuels is compounding the health impacts of the multiple crises the world is facing — including the fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, and climate change.
“Our report this year reveals we are at a critical juncture. We see how climate change is driving severe health impacts all around the world, while the persistent global fossil fuel dependence compounds these health harms amidst multiple global crises, keeping households vulnerable to volatile fossil fuel markets, exposed to energy poverty, and dangerous levels of air pollution,” Dr Marina Romanello, Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown at the University College London said.
Dr Romanello is co-author of The 2022 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: health at the mercy of fossil fuels. “New findings presented in the seventh annual global report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change reveal that governments and companies continue to follow strategies that increasingly threaten the health and survival of all people alive today, and of future generations,” an official release on the report said.
The report represents the work of 99 experts from 51 institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the release said.
According to a fact sheet on the specific impacts on India — which uses data from the report but is not itself a part of the report — climate change is affecting almost every pillar of food security:
- The duration of the growth season for maize has decreased by 2%, compared to a 1981-2010 baseline, while rice and winter wheat have each decreased by 1%.
- From 2012-2021, infants under one year old experienced an average of 72 million more person-days of heatwaves per year, compared to 1985-2005. 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.
- In 2021, Indians lost 167.2 billion potential labour hours due to heat exposure with income losses equivalent to about 5.4% of national GDP.
- 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.
“These are early warnings and we need to take mitigation measures like adapting heat action plans in each city. For instance, the Ahmedabad heat action plan that has shown mortality can be reduced, should be adapted everywhere,” Ahmedabad-based public health expert and Director, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Dr Dilip Mavalankar.
Dr Sundeep Salvi, Chairperson, Global Burden of Diseases-India for respiratory diseases, said 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,” Dr Salvi said.