NEW DELHI: With its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, India is most likely to be one of the worst sufferers due to the health effects of climate change, researchers from across the globe have collectively warned.
Reports on extensive health damage from climate change indicate lifelong health consequences of rising temperatures for a child born today should the world follow a business-as-usual pathway.
As temperatures rise, infants will be vulnerable to the greatest burden of malnutrition and rising food prices-average yield potential of maize and rice has declined almost 2 per cent in India since the 1960s, with malnutrition already responsible for two-thirds of under-5 deaths, mentions the report.
The report also says that children will be among the worst sufferers from the rise in infectious diseases. With climatic suitability for the Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera, for example, has been rising 3 per cent a year in India since the early 1980s.
“Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched many initiatives and programmes to address a variety of diseases and risk factors. But this report shows that the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate,” said Dr Poornima Prabhakaran of the Public Health Foundation of India, a co-author of the report.
Throughout adolescence, the impact of air pollution will worsen — total energy supply from coal increased 11% in India from 2016 to 2018, the report notes.
It also highlights the dangerous levels of outdoor fine particulate air pollution — PM2.5 — contributing to over 529,500 premature deaths in 2016-over 97,400 of these from coal.
The researchers have also warned that extreme weather events will intensify into adulthood, with India seeing an additional 21 million people exposed to wildfires since 2001-2004; and 22 billion additional hours of work lost due to extreme heat since 2000 — 12 billion in agriculture.