New Delhi: World Health Organization (WHO) tags climate change as the biggest health threat facing the humanity. It adds that intense rainfall, frequent floods, forest fires and droughts triggered by climate change are already impacting health and livelihood and causing huge sufferings, mental health issues, deaths and displacement, globally. It states that rising temperatures are also leading to an outbreak of infectious disease, heat strokes, trauma and even death from extreme heat. WHO also said that crop failure linked to climate change is driving malnutrition and undernutrition in different parts of the world, while pollutants poisoning the air are also impacting health of millions of people.
If left unchecked then climate crisis will undo the progress made in the last fifty years in terms of development, global health, and poverty reduction, and is likely to further widen existing health inequalities between and within populations, as per WHO.
While no one is safe from these risks, the people whose health is being harmed first and worst by the climate crisis are the people who contribute least to its causes, and lack the capability to protect themselves and their families against it, as these are mostly people in the low-income and disadvantaged countries and communities.
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Here is how climate change crisis impacts health and well-being of people:
- According to WHO, nearly 13 million lives are lost every year due to avoidable environmental causes. Today, Climate change is putting the health, well-being, and sustainable development of billions of people across the region and the world at risk. It jeopardises decades of progress made in reducing disease-related morbidity and mortality.
- WHO’s latest estimates highlight that climate change is expected to cause an additional 2,50,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050. It also adds that the South-East Asia Region, which is home to more than 2 billion people is highly vulnerable to climate change and has the highest estimated number of deaths due to climate change.
- WHO also adds that over 930 million people – around 12% of the world’s population – spend at least 10% of their household budget to pay for health care. With the poorest people largely uninsured, health shocks and stresses are already pushing around 100 million people into poverty every year, with the impact of climate change worsening this trend.
- United Nations Development Programme states that the world is already witnessing “irreversible” damage from climate change. Stating the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, it highlighted that over three billion people—nearly half of the world’s population—live in “contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change”.
- WHO estimates that the direct costs of climate change to the health system is estimated between $2 Billion and $4 billion a year by 2030. It also adds that areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will have the least capability to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
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Status Of Climate Change
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, states United Nations. It adds that since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
And as the emissions continue to rise, the earth today is about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s. United Nations states that we are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement of decreasing global emissions by halve by 2030 and ‘net-zero’ by 2050. The agreement also has set the target to keep global temperature from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, that is considered the upper limit to avoid the worst fallout from climate change. It also adds that 2015-2019 were the five warmest years on record while 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record.
In 2019, greenhouse gas concentrations reached new highs, with carbon dioxide levels at 148 per cent of preindustrial levels, as per United Nations. It also adds that greenhouse gas concentrations are already at their highest levels in 2 million years and have also continued to rise.
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Thousands of scientists and government reviewers agreed that limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C would help us avoid the worst climate impacts and maintain a livable climate. Yet, based on current climate change trends, United Nations projects that the global warming will reach around 3.2°C by the end of the century.
Today, the consequences of climate change include intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity.
From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk due to changing climate.
What Can We Do
According to United Nations’ Act Now campaign, every one of us can help limit global warming and take care of our planet. By making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, we can be part of the solution and influence change, here are some of the actions United Nations recommends:
- Most of the electricity and heating solutions are still powered by coal, oil, and gas. Airplanes and cars also run mostly on fossil fuels. To reduce carbon footprint, use less energy at home, switch to wind or solar-energy provider, skip a long-haul flight, and drive less.
- The production, processing, transport, consumption, and disposal of food all contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions. To reduce the impact on the climate, eat more plant-based meals, use up what is left, buy local and seasonal food, and compost any leftovers.
- Speak up! Appeal to world leaders, urge local authorities, employers, institutions, to take urgent action towards net-zero emissions and help beat the climate crisis.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.