Lancet urges response to heatwave exposure surge

Lancet urges response to heatwave exposure surge


  1. According to the Lancet Countdown 2018 on Health and Climate Change report published recently, globally each person was exposed to an additional 1.4 days of heat wave between 2000 and 2017 compared to the baseline period of 1986 to 2005.

Important Facts:

  1. About the report:
  • The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change was produced by 150 experts from 27 universities and institutions including the World Health Organization and the World Bank.
  • The Lancet Countdown tracks 41 indicators across five domains namely:

i) Climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability

ii) Adaptation, planning, and resilience for health

iii) Mitigation actions and health co-benefits

iv) Finance and economics

v) Public and political engagement

  • The report named “Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: Shaping the health of nations for centuries to come has been prepared jointly by the Lancet with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
  • The report urges a review of existing occupational health standards, labour laws and sectoral regulations for worker safety in relation to climatic conditions.
  1. Findings of the report:
  • Almost 153 billion hours of labour were lost globally in 2017 due to heat, an increase of 62 billion hours from the year 2000.
  • From 2014-2017, the average length of heatwaves in India ranged from 3-4 days compared to the global average of 0.8-1.8 days.
  • Indians were exposed to almost 60 million heatwave exposure events in 2016, a jump of about 40 million from 2012.
  • India also lost nearly 75,000 million labour hours in 2017 (equivalent to a year’s work for 7% of the working population), compared to about 43,000 million hours in 2000, an increase of more than 30,000 million labour hours lost in less than two decades.
  • For the agriculture sector alone, the labour hours lost increased from about 40,000 million hours in 2000 to about 60,000 million hours in 2017.
  • The agriculture sector was more vulnerable compared to the industrial and service sectors because workers there were more likely to be exposed to heat.
  • Overall, across sectors India lost almost 75,000 million hours of labour in 2017, from about 43,000 million hours in 2000.
  1. Significance of the findings:
  • Since India is placed amongst the countries who most experience high social and economic costs from climate change”, the study makes several recommendations.
  • These include identifying “heat hot-spots” through appropriate tracking of meteorological data.
  • Also promoting “timely development and implementation of local Heat Action Plans with strategic inter-agency coordination, and a response which targets the most vulnerable groups has been advised.
  • The findings are also significant for India as agriculture makes up 18% of the country’s GDP and employs almost half the population.
  1. Other reports about alarming climate change and its impact:
  • A recent World Bank report on South Asia’s hotspots predicted a 2.8% erosion of the country’s GDP by 2050, accompanied by a fall in living standards due to changes in temperature, rainfall and precipitation patterns.
  • The India Meteorological Department had reported that from 1901 to 2007, there was an increase of more than 0.5°C in mean temperature, with considerable geographic variation, and climate forecasts by research groups project a 2.2-5.5°C rise in temperatures in northern, central and western India by the end of the 21st century.
  • According to ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C,’ commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the average global temperature rose by more than one degree Celsius from the present, India could “annually” expect conditions like the 2015 heat wave that killed at least 2,000.
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