New Delhi: Warning that health is at the mercy of fossil fuels, from 2000–2004 to 2017–2021, heat-related deaths increased by 55 per cent in India, the 2022 Lancet Countdown report said on Wednesday.
Improvements in air quality will help to prevent deaths. In 2020, over 330,000 people died in India due to exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel combustion.
In the run-up to the UN Climate Conference in Egypt (COP27), the 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.
What does the report state:
The report says in India, 45 per cent of urban centres are classified as moderately green or above. Urban redesign that puts health first can provide increased green space that reduces urban heat, improves air quality, and benefits physical and mental health.
However, the Indian media’s coverage of health and climate change increased by 27 per cent between 2020 and 2021.
Climate change is leading to health impacts and how it affects GDP:
The report says climate change is amplifying the health impacts of multiple crises in India. The duration of the growth season for maize has decreased by two per cent, compared to a 1981-2010 baseline, while rice and winter wheat have each decreased by one per cent.
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. In 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.
In 2021, Indians lost 167.2 billion potential labor hours due to heat exposure, with income losses equivalent to about 5.4 per cent of the national GDP.
From 1951–1960 to 2012–2021, the number of months suitable for dengue transmission by Aedes aegypti rose by 1.69 per cent, reaching 5.6 months each year.
Governments and companies continue to prioritise fossil fuels to the detriment of people’s health. In 2019, India had a net negative carbon price, indicating that the government was effectively subsidising fossil fuels.
India allocated a net $34 billion to this in 2019 alone, equivalent to 37.5 per cent of the country’s national health spending that year.
Biomass accounted for 61 per cent of household energy in 2019, while fossil fuels accounted for another 20 per cent. With this high reliance on dirty fuels, average household concentrations of particulate matter exceeded the WHO recommendation by 27-fold nationally and 35-fold in rural homes.