New Delhi: Children are among the ‘worst’ affected by climate change says the 2019 report of the Lancet Countdown On Health and Climate Change that was released on November 13, a day before India celebrated Children’s Day. The report also stated that more than five lakh people died prematurely in India in 2016 due to dangerous levels of outdoor air pollution and over 97,000 of them died after being exposed to pollutants from coal burning. The Lancet Countdown report, which is a comprehensive annual analysis in collaboration with 120 experts from 35 institutions also cautioned that the impact of air pollution in India will worsen if the country does not shift from coal-based energy.
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According to the report, rising temperatures due to climate change and air pollution could undo India’s hard-earned public health gains of the last two decades. Not just India, the report also stated that if the world follows a ‘business-as-usual pathway’, with high carbon emissions and climate change continuing at the current rate, then a child born today will face a world that on average is over 4 degree celsius warmer by their 71st birthday, threatening their health at every stage of their lives.
The report also warned of the risks future generation might face from air-borne diseases, malnutrition due to mass crop failures, and even mental and physical trauma from increased flash flooding and wildfires.
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Study co-author Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India said,
Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm.
The Lancet study also pointed out that cholera is rising at 3 per cent a year in India since the early 1980s due to climatic instability. The report warns, for the world to meet its UN climate goals and protect the health of the next generation, the energy landscape will have to change drastically.
Ms Prabhakaran also added,
Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched many initiatives and programmes to address a variety of diseases and risk factors. But this report shows that the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate.
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Nick Watts, Executive Director of The Lancet Countdown report in an official statement said,
Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of climate change. Until and unless, immediate action from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions is taken, gains in well-being and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation.