Increasing Heat Waves

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Introduction:

  • Climate change is here and affecting
    our health, with extreme heat in particular also having effects on
    productivity, food supply and disease transmission, a new global report
    finds. 
  • According to Indian Meteorological
    Department, Heat wave is considered if maximum temperature of a station reaches
    at least 40°C or more for Plains, 37°C or more for coastal stations and at
    least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.

Lancet
Countdown:

  • Tracking Progress on Health and
    Climate Change between 1901 and 2007, India’s mean temperature increased by
    more than 0.5 degree Celsius.
  • India experienced an additional 40
    million heatwave exposure events in 2016 as compared to 2012, raising concerns
    over a “dangerous surge” in negative health impacts. 
  • Over the last two decades, there has
    been a “marked increase” in the duration of heatwaves in India, as well as the
    numbers of Indians exposed to heatwaves.
  • The country will likely be among the
    worst affected by climate change given its “weaker health systems and poorer
    infrastructure. 
  • These are the findings of a study
    called Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change.

Heat
waves and Heat Stress 

  • Heat exposure can lead to heat stress
    — illnesses which occur as a result of the body’s inability to prevent its temperature
    rising from beyond a normal range. 
  • Severe heat stroke can lead to
    multiple organ failure, seizures, and death.
  • Children, the elderly and those with
    pre-existing morbidities are particularly vulnerable.

Socio-economic
Impact of Climate Change  

Since
1990, every region of the globe has become steadily more vulnerable to extreme
increases of heat. 

Increased
exposure to heat can cause

  1. A decrease in labour output
  2. Burden health systems ill-equipped to
    cope with the effects of heat stress
  3. Promote the spread of diseases like
    cholera and dengue fever across endemic areas. 
  4. Climate change threatens to undermine
    the public health gains of previous decades.
  5. With each additional tonne of carbon
    dioxide emitted costs India $86 — almost double the expense borne by the USA
    ($48) and Saudi Arabia ($47), according to a study. 
  6. IPCC warned that if the global
    community is not able to limit a temperature rise to 1.5 degrees,
    climate-related risks to livelihoods, food security, health, water supply and
    human security will further intensify.

Labour
loss 

  • India lost nearly 75 billion hours of
    labour in 2017 as a result of rising temperatures.
  • This made sustained work increasingly
    difficult and negatively affecting workers’ output.
  • The agriculture sector experienced the
    largest increase in labour loss
  • The “climate-related impacts” on the
    workforce and economy could be significant for India, with 18 percent of the
    country’s GDP tied to the agricultural sector. 
  • An urgent review of occupational
    health standards and labour laws must be carried out.

Carbon
Emissions Exacerbating Premature Deaths 

  • India’s dependency on fossil fuels is
    contributing to high levels of ambient air pollution containing PM 2.5
    Land-based transport is “responsible for a substantial number” of PM 2.5
    related deaths.
  • However, these emissions can be
    addressed through improvements to travel infrastructure.
  • Cities should tackle the population’s
    transport needs through public infrastructure, limiting the rise in of
    car-users and keeping vehicular pollution at bay  Raising awareness of such pollution-related
    issues, their associated health risks and climate change overall is the
    key. 
  • Increasing regional, non-english media
    coverage of climate change and health issues across states can further help to
    stimulate a “state-by-state policy response”. 
  • Carrying out comprehensive city-level
    traffic surveys to guide urban infrastructure while promoting safe walking and
    cycling to reduce the emission load. 
  • It is of prime importance for India to
    reduce its carbon emissions and air pollution levels, specifically targeting
    the use of coal, oil and natural gas.

Way
Forward

  • Advance implementation of local Heat
    Action Plans, plus effective inter-agency coordination is a vital response
    which the government can deploy in order to protect vulnerable groups.
  • This will require identification of
    “heat hot spots”, analysis of meteorological data and allocation of resources to
    crisis-prone areas. 
  • Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)
    has adopted a heat action plan which necessitates measures such as building
    heat shelters, ensuring availability of water and removing neonatal ICU from
    the top floor of hospitals.
  • It has helped bring down the impact of
    heatwave of vulnerable population.
  • Similar action plan should be
    developed by other states also.

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