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Deaths due to heatwaves rose by 55% in India — key findings of Lancet study

Deaths due to heatwaves rose by 55% in India — key findings of Lancet study

Deaths due to heatwaves rose by 55% in India — key findings of Lancet study
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By Oct 27, 2022 3:50:37 PM IST (Updated)

The report revealed that India suffered a loss of 5.4% of GDP due to heatwaves and the burning of fossil fuels has led to more than 3,30,000 deaths in India in 2021.

A new study has found that there was a 55 percent increase in deaths (of people over 65 years) due to extreme heat between 2000-2004 and 2017-2021 in India. Globally, the heat-related mortality for people over 65 increased by approximately 68 percent between 2000-2004 and 2017-2021, the Lancet study revealed.

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The country also suffered a loss 167.2 billion potential labour hours due to extreme temperatures in 2021, as per the annual Lancet Countdown report published on Tuesday.
The report mentioned that exposure to extreme heat affects health directly, as it exacerbates underlying conditions including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and causes heat stroke, adverse pregnancy outcomes, worsened sleep patterns, poor mental health, and increased injury-related death.
The occurrence of heatwave has increased tremendously in the past few years in India. Some regions receive heatwaves during the whole year, while summers have become unbearable in many parts of the country.
The Lancet Countdown report looked at 103 countries and it has revealed that the heatwave, which hit India and its neighbour, Pakistan, between March and April was caused by climate change.
The report also revealed that the global potential loss of earnings was US$669 billion, equivalent to 0·72 percent of gross world product in 2021.
Most Vulnerable Groups
Because of the rapidly increasing temperatures, the most vulnerable populations, adults older than 65 years, and children younger than one year of age, faced the greatest impact.
They were exposed to 3.7 billion more heatwave days in 2021 than in 1986–2005 annually. Also, heat-related deaths increased by 68 percent between 2000-04 and 2017-21, which was exacerbated by the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Exposure to extreme heat also affects health indirectly by restricting people's capacity to work and exercise. Older people, pregnant women, newborn babies, people who are socially deprived, and people working outdoors are particularly at risk," the study said.
The changing climate is affecting the spread of infectious diseases as well, putting populations at higher risk of infections. As coastal waters are becoming more suitable for the transmission of Vibrio pathogens, the likelihood of dengue transmission rose by 12 percent between 1951-60 and 2012-21 putting added pressure on healthcare systems.
Dependence on Fossil Fuels
The report also noted that over-dependence on fossil fuels is worsening the impact of climate change, pandemics and food security. As per the study, the burning of fossil fuels has led to estimated 3,30,000 deaths in India in 2021.
These deaths were primarily the result of exposure to particulate matter released due to the burning of fossil fuels which can clog the lungs.
The study also stated that the global land area affected by extreme drought had increased by nearly a third in the last 50 years, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk of water and food insecurity.
Possible Solutions
The report suggests transformative, proactive, and effective adaptation measures are immediately required to manage the health threats of global heating. The adaptation should be integrated across sectors and into policies and programmes in health systems by governments, and private corporations too mitigate the effects.
The study also mentioned nature-based solutions that can contribute to climate change adaptation and have ecosystem benefits. These include Green Urban spaces that reduce heat islands and positively affect physical and mental health of people.
Shifting away from fossil fuels could prevent the 1.2 million deaths which are caused by exposure to fossil fuel emissions. as per the report.
Transitioning to low-carbon, plant-rich diets can help reduce emissions and improve health, the study suggests.
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