|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 1-3
Climate change: A global emergency, let's save our planet
Vikas Bhatia, Raviraj Uttamrao Kamble
Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
|Date of Web Publication||4-Jul-2019|
Raviraj Uttamrao Kamble
Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Bhatia V, Kamble RU. Climate change: A global emergency, let's save our planet. Indian J Community Fam Med 2019;5:1-3
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”
- Mahatma Gandhi
The certainty that earth has warmed up is unequivocal, and human influences are the major cause for global warming. We all know that greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide are like blanket around the earth, trapping energy and causing it to warm. Human activities are changing the natural greenhouse and have increased CO2 concentration by more than a third since the industrial revolution began. This is the most important long-lived “force” for climate change. The major part of this increase in core concentration is due to burning of fossil fuel and coal. Industrial activities have raised atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide from 280 to 400 ppm in the past 150 years (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] Fifth Assessment Report, 2014).
The IPCC has warned of disastrous consequences if the current trend of global warming is not reversed immediately. Human activities are estimated to have caused about 1.0% of global warming above preindustrial levels; however, if it continues to increase at the current rate, global warming is likely to reach 1.5% between 2030 and 2052. This level of global warming increases the climate-related risks to health, food security, human security, water supply, and economic growth. Changes in the pattern of precipitation and temperature have led to a rise in sea level and consequently threat the availability of freshwater around the world.
Climate change is one of the largest and most complex problems affecting almost every individual globally. Apart from deleterious effect on weather, rainfall, higher temperature, etc., it affects the human health in many negative consequences. Till 1990s, there was a general lack of understanding as to how disruption of biophysical and ecosystems might affect the health of a population. However, late in 1996, the second assessment report of IPCC devoted a whole chapter to potential risk to health. Moreover, now, we have an abundance of literature and research, suggesting the effect of climate change on health. It is projected that human health will be affected with negative consequences with any increase in global warming. Lower risks are projected at 1.5°C than at 2°C for heat-related morbidity and mortality. Risks from some vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are projected to increase with warming from 1.5°C to 2°C, including potential shifts in their geographic range.
Climate change affects social and environmental determinants of health such as safe drinking water, availability of food, clean air, and secure shelter. Certain groups such as children, elderly, pregnant women, socially marginalized population, or people with other health conditions such as HIV are more susceptible to health impacts due to climate change. Climate change affects human health as can lead to emergence of new epidemiological pattern (e.g., malaria may move to areas where there have never been cases before), it also increases the transmission season and extend the geographical range of many diseases like malaria and dengue. Global warming brings new and emerging health issues, which also covers heat waves and other extreme events. Heat stress increases the risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal diseases. Many waterborne diseases and infectious diseases are highly sensitive to climatic conditions.,
Impacts of climate change on food security, particularly in relation to floods and drought, highlight concern for undernutrition and malnutrition. Considering the product life cycles, food consumption is a major polluting activity too, and plant-based diet can be a promising solution to it, as the production of plant protein requires less energy, water, and land in comparison to animal protein. Moreover, the life cycle inputs per kilogram of animal protein is significantly higher than plant protein. The lives and livelihoods of millions have been affected by the impact of higher temperatures, extreme weather, ozone depletion, increased danger of wildland fires, loss of biodiversity, stress to food production, and the global spread of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, cholera, diarrheal diseases, and rodent-borne diseases. Moreover, the WHO assessment concludes that climate change is expected to cause approximately 2.5 lakh additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050: 95,000 due to childhood undernutrition, 48,000 due to diarrhea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 38,000 due to heat exposure in elderly people.
Realizing the “pressing need,” India has taken many clean and green development initiatives at both the state and national levels. A comprehensive publication titled-”India-spearheading climate solutions” was released on February 12, 2019, by the Union minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate change. This document mentions key actions taken by India under various sectors to combat and adapt to climate change. Some of the major initiatives of India are India's National Action Plan on Climate Change which deals with eight major missions: Solar – to promote solar energy by competing fossil fuels; Enhanced Energy Efficiency – to improve energy efficiency of domestic, commercial, and industrial sectors; Sustainable Habitat – to encourage sustainable urban planning; Water – to conserve it, minimize waste, and ensure equitable distribution; Strategic knowledge on climate change; Sustainable agriculture; Green India – to promote, enhance, and restore forests, and Sustaining Himalayan ecosystem. However, there stand major challenges in the efficient implementation of the missions in terms of institutional, systemic and process barriers, and also the approach seems broad with lacking specificities. Other initiatives are International Solar Alliances, State Action Plan on Climate Change is which obliges state to incorporate climate change concerns in decision-making process, Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles Scheme to boost e-mobility, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformations for smart cities, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to provide access to clean cooking fuel and empower women and Swachh Bharat mission to bring behavioural change people with respect to toilet access and usage. However, no promising results in terms of climate change are evident and thus require a strong commitment at both individual and government levels to combat the need.
Recently, the author was in Australia where federal elections were held on May 18, 2019. Climate change was one of the major concerns, and the narrative is debated by political parties. Elsewhere, a lot of efforts are being made for a climate change. June 5 is celebrated as “World Environment Day” to draw attention to a particularly pressing concern and accordingly, “Air Pollution” was identified as an environmental concern for 2019. As per the World Air Quality Report, 2018, the Indian National Capital Region has emerged as the most polluted region in the world, with an yearly average of particulate matter 2.5 concentration at 11.3 μg/m3.
Promotion of research and development for battery-run transports, increase in the vegetative cover, strict checking of Pollution Under Control certificates, restriction on number of vehicles owned per individual/family, adaption of best practices to minimize emissions from construction sites/activities, promoting renewable energy choices, and adapting plant-based diet can be some of the many commitments for a change toward healthier climate.
There is a need for extraordinary efforts by every human being to adapt to healthy climate-friendly practices. Environment, air, sky, water, etc., does not define political or national barriers. The entire global family has to move unitedly to ensure the planet is a healthy place for survival and existence of human race and biological life-forms. It is a dire need to save the mother earth from the devastation of climate change and thus require to make the clean renewable energy as the profitable kind of energy. It is a global emergency and every human being has to contribute for a healthier environment.
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