Climate change and health

Dr Richa Mahajan,
Dr Rajiv K Gupta

Climate change is a critical public health problem that, in addition to introducing new pests and pathogens into communities, makes many existing diseases and conditions worse. Climate change points to an increase in sea surface temperature, increase in severity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, melting of glaciers, declining air quality and increase in greenhouse gas emissions. We have still not been able to forget the devastating effects of Kashmir floods (2014), Uttarakhand flash floods (2013) and Tsunami (2004). Southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been witnessing flood-like situations due to heavy rains lately. Whether in the Western Ghats or the Himalayas, there are pressing reasons for states to address and mitigate their climate-related vulnerabilities. The Madhav Gadgil committee, in 2011, recommended that a roughly 1,30,000 sq km stretch spanning Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu be declared an environmentally sensitive zone, but still recommendations have not been accepted despite tremendous loss of wealth and life.
The direct and indirect health results of such a global imbalance include excessive heat-related illnesses, vector and water-borne diseases, increased exposure to environmental toxins and exacerbation of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases due to declining air quality. The most vulnerable people- children, the elderly, the poor, and those with underlying co-morbidities- are at increased risk for health effects from climate change. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
To mitigate and adapt to climate change, the Prime Minister Council on Climate Change (PMCC), India released National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) with eight missions in June 2008. In 2015, India’s response to climate change was broadened by introducing four new missions including “Health”. The proposed ‘Mission on Health’ will address the health-related aspects of climate change through multi- pronged approach. Accordingly, National Action Plan for Climate Change and Human Health (NAPCCHH) was prepared in 2018 with objective to strengthen health care services against adverse impact of climate change on health. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) approved National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH) under National Health Mission (NHM) in February 2019. Currently the three key areas of focus for NPCCHH include air pollution, heat related illnesses and creation of green and climate resilient healthcare facilities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also presented five nectar elements, ‘Panchamrit’, to deal with the challenge of climate change at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow:
* India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
* India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
* India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now till 2030.
* By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by less than 45%.
* By the year 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero.
Promotion of renewable energy by Indian government is a strong commitment towards climate change. We can also contribute towards reducing the effects of climate change by making small changes in our lifestyle like:
* Replace old appliances with energy efficient models and light bulbs/LEDs.
* Save electricity by turning them off completely when not in use, including your computer.
* Reduce, reuse and recycle waste.
* Plant more trees.
* Promote the use of public transport and active movement ( Walking, cycling, etc.).
* Use renewable energy. If you have the option, install solar panels in your house.
* Bring your own bag when you shop.
* Use a refillable water bottle and coffee cup. Cut down on waste.
Rising global temperature, record levels of greenhouse gas emissions and increasing impacts of climate change require urgent and measurable action on the part of everyone.