New Delhi: At the ongoing annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where a diverse assembly of around 3,000 leaders from across the world meet, the topic of climate change has taken the centerstage. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report published last week ahead of Davos, climate change is among the biggest risks the world faces over the next decade. The report also states that half of the most severe threats in the world over the next 10 years are environmental, which includes extreme weather events, critical changes to Earth’s systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse and a shortage of natural resources.
Speaking at the annual gala about the ongoing crisis of climate change and how it is impacting the health of human beings, the experts discussed the following:
“Diseases Burden Is On An Increase”
Shyam Bishen, Head of Healthcare, World Economic Forum said,
The impact of climate change on human beings’ health is of global concern. This is something we see from poor air quality, heat, flooding and hazardous climate events. Because of climate change, our global disease burden is also growing and increasing at a fast rate. Both non-communicable and communicable diseases, around the globe is on the rise. Vector born diseases are also increasing like Dengue and Malaria, last year, it was all about these two diseases. If we continue the way we are, we will have about 15 million additional deaths by 2050 and that’s worrisome. We have also estimated 12.5 trillion dollar economic losses from climate impact on human health.
“Climate Change Requires Allocation Of More Climate Funding”
Further highlighting the impact of climate change on the health of human beings, Cheryl A. Moore, Chief Research Programmes Officer at Wellcome Trust said,
Climate change is here. The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), which is the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme declared 2023 as the hottest year. Climate change isn’t hypothetical anymore, yet only half a per cent of a multi-lateral climate funding has been allocated in protection of human health. This is alarming. The quarter of global burden of diseases is linked with environmental crisis. We are seeing problems in growing are staple crops like rice, wheat, soybean due to unpredictable rain pattern. Flooding is creating more and more disease burden and expanding the reach of vector borne diseases.
“Climate Change Is A Health Crisis”
Whereas tagging climate change as the health crisis, Vanessa Kerry, CEO, Seed Global Health (a non-profit organization which helps to provide nursing and medical training support in resource-limited countries), Special Envoy Climate Change and Health, World Health Oraganization added,
It is a crisis for our stability, security, economic growth, and our fundamental future as a globe. Health is fundamental to everything we do. Currently, because of climate change, we have countries like Zambia that is shutting down schools because of Cholera outbreak caused due to increased rainfalls. We are losing our progress against Sustainable Development Goals. Statistics predict that the human deaths by 2050 will double from what it used to be and the major attribution is from climate change. Climate change is no more a future problem, it is happening now and impacting all of us. 2023 was an apocalyptic year in terms of extreme weather events and that is about to get worse. We are at a crisis and it will come down to two things – we will have to phase out fossil fuels and we have to mobilise more money not only to medication but to the adaption and resilient to climate change.
“We Need Our Crops To Be Climate Resilient”
Bill Anderson, CEO, Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture added,
700 million people globally are at risk from extreme weather events. 1.6 billion life years will be at loss between now and 2050. Last year, Lancet report mentioned heat related deaths are up from 65 per cent to 85 per cent since the 90s. So, definitely climate change is getting real. It is impacting not only human’s health but the food we eat. A lot of our crops are failing on an alarming rate and it is all because of climate change. Our globe needs to move forward and understand ways in which we all can become climate resilient.
Sharing examples of climate resilient crops and the need for the planet to adopt the same, Bill Anderson said,
Typically corn grows 10 feet tall. That’s natural but also problematic, when we have extreme weather events, which is becoming frequent, you lose a lot of corn, when it matures because the stalk blows over. Farmers can lose about 50-60 per cent of their crops. To save this, we as a company have developed a climate resilient corn crop, which grows 6 feet tall instead of 10. This has important positive effects, one you don’t lose the crop to yielding in severe weather events. Secondly, farmers don’t have to proactively depend on the use of pesticides. What happens is that beyond 6 feet when farmers can’t see the crop they proactively use pesticides to save the crop from pests, but with 6 feet they can see and wait for pests to appear and then only use the pesticides. Another example is of direct seeded rice, in most of Asia, rice is grown using traditional methods. This method requires flooding in the fields and by doing so, weeds are killed with water. This sounds good but it leads to a lot of water wastage and it causes anaerobic fermentation of the weeds that is decomposition of the weeds. The problem, when this happens it produces a lot of methane, which is one of the toxic greenhouses gases. We have the opportunity to replace that with direct seeded rice that requires 40 per cent less water and 90 per cent less methane.
Climate Change & Health – Why It Is A Cause Of Worry?
Climate change is impacting health in a myriad of ways. According to World Health Organization, the leading cause of deaths and illnesses is climate change such as frequent extreme weather events, heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues. WHO data indicates 2 billion people lack safe drinking water and 600 million suffer from foodborne illnesses annually with children under 5 bearing 30% of foodborne fatalities. Climate stressors heighten waterborne and foodborne disease risks.
As per the data, in the year 2020, 770 million faced hunger, predominantly in Africa and Asia. Climate change is one of the causes as it affects food availability, quality and diversity, exacerbating food and nutrition crises. Temperature and precipitation changes enhance the spread of vector-borne diseases.
Climate change induces both immediate mental health issues, like anxiety and post-traumatic stress, and long-term disorders due to factors like displacement and disrupted social cohesion.
WHO underlines the fact that climate crisis will threaten the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction, and further widen existing health inequalities between and within populations.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. 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 a world post 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 well-being, 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.