Climate Change And Its Impact On Our Health
We have all heard the statement — the only thing that is constant is change. However, not all change brings good news and climate change is one such phenomenon. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, a whole section of people is in denial about climate change, but the effects are clearly visible.
According to a recent report from MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) 1.5 billion people across South Asia could soon face severe summer heat waves that would be impossible to survive without adequate protection. The countries affected would include India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where a majority of the population is unskilled labour, who earn their livelihood by toiling for long hours outdoors in the sun. These people would face dangerous heat waves that could be a direct threat to their survival and health.
This is but one example of how climate change affects the human population. This situation has been brought about by us and, sadly, despite knowing about it for several decades, we as a society have not yet been able to bring it under control effectively.
A new report by the Asian Development Bank and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany states that sizeable parts of Asia may see 50% more rainfall, but countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan may experience a decline in rainfall by 20-50%. Coastal and low-lying areas in Asia would face an increased risk of floods. Out of the 25 cities most exposed to a one-metre sea-level rise, 19 are in Asia, with 7 in the Philippines alone. Indonesia is predicted to be the country worst hit by coastal flooding.
All these phenomena have serious economic consequences. Losses due to floods globally are expected to increase to $52 billion per year by 2050, from $6 billion in 2005. And 13 of the top 20 cities with the largest increase in annual flood losses from 2005-2050 are in Asia and the Pacific.(Source)
The food production and distribution scenario also looks bleak but what is of greater concern, is the effect of climate change on health. Today, 3.3 million people die every year due to outdoor air pollution, with China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh being the top four countries for such deaths. Heat-related deaths in the region among the elderly, due to unbearable temperatures, are expected to increase by about 52,000 cases by 2050, according to data from the World Health Organisation.
If things continue like this, a six-degree Celsius temperature increase is projected over the entire Asian landmass by the end of the century. Temperature increases in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the northwest part of China projected to become eight degrees hotter than they were at the start of the Industrial Age.
At the launch of the ADB report, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute, said, “The Asian countries hold Earth’s future in their hands. If they choose to protect themselves against dangerous climate change, they will help to save the entire planet. The challenge is twofold. On the one hand, Asian greenhouse-gas emissions have to be reduced in a way that the global community can limit planetary warming to well below two degrees Celsius, as agreed in Paris 2015. Yet even adapting to 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise is a major task. So, on the other hand, Asian countries have to find strategies for ensuring prosperity and security under unavoidable climate change within a healthy global development.”
Looking at the bright side, Schellnhuber added, “Leading the clean industrial revolution will provide Asia with unprecedented economic opportunities. And exploring the best strategies to absorb the shocks of environmental change will make Asia a crucial actor in 21st-century multilateralism.”
Thus we can say, though change is the only constant, let us not neglect climate change and see what best we can do to mitigate it. Every small bit counts!