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Report: India in top-5 list of highest exposure of people to heatwave

The Times of India logo The Times of India 21-10-2021 Vishwa Mohan
© Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: During any given month in 2020, up to 19% of the global land surface was affected by extreme drought - a value that had not exceeded 13% between 1950 and 1999 – with warm temperatures affecting yield potential of the world’s major staple crops, exposing the rising risk of food security, said the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change report, 2021.

Released on Wednesday, the report called “code red for a healthy future” outlining growing risks to health and climate, also noted that India is one of the five countries with the highest exposure of vulnerable populations to heatwave (person-days of heatwave exposure) over the past 5 years, and the exposure is following an increasing trend.

India figured as the most vulnerable in the list of people younger than one year followed by China, Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria whereas China figured at the top in the list of vulnerable people older than 65 years followed by India, Japan, USA and Indonesia.

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In terms of 'person-days' of heatwave exposure, the vulnerability to extremes of heat in India in 2019 was 15% higher than in 1990. The ‘person-days/hours’ refers to the number of extreme heat days/hours a year multiplied by the exposed population.

The report for the first time also measured the effect of heatwaves on people’s mental health by analysing over six billion tweets over five years from Twitter users around the world. It found a 155% increase in “negative expressions” during heatwaves in 2020 relative to the 2015-2019 average.

“It’s time to realise that no one is safe from the effects of climate change. As we recover from Covid, we still have the time to take a different path and create a healthier future for us all,” said Maria Romanello, lead author of the Lancet Countdown report.

The report, factoring in 44 indicators exposing an unabated rise in the health impacts of climate change, noted how the growing risks exacerbate the health hazards already faced by many, particularly in communities exposed to food and water insecurity, heatwaves, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Noting impact of rising temperature on work hours, the report flagged that the loss in the number of hours available for safe physical activity per day increased in all countries with the greatest loss occurring in the low human development index (HDI) group of countries.

Calculating the loss, it said the average loss increased from 2·5 hour/person per day in 1991 to 3·7 h/person per day in 2020.

“In a rising trend since at least 1990, 295 billion hours of potential work were lost across the globe in 2020 due to heat exposure -- the equivalent to 88 work hours per employed person,” said the report, noting that three most populous countries in the medium HDI group (Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India) had the greatest losses among this group (2·5–3 times the world average and the equivalent to 216–261 hours lost per employed person in 2020)

This year’s data shows that the rapid increases in heatwave & wildfire exposure, drought, changes in the suitability for infectious diseases, & rising sea levels--combined with insufficient adaptation measures--are harming people’s health in all countries.

The report outlined that current COVID-19 recovery plans are not compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change and will therefore have long term health implications.

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