Climate Change, health, and localized engagements

Witoubou Newmai

“The overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative,” according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is because, according to various studies, Climate Change also intensely determines health outcomes.

Our society’s failure to foster deliberative inquiry to dilate discourses related to health issues connotes that our responses to the health effects from the Climate Change and the callous competitive businesses manufacturing adulterated food items will fall flat to the undesirable nadir.

When should we start engaging to deduce mechanisms to “ensure safe food reaches our plates”?

The media reports in the past few days on factors detrimental to health are too alarming.

“Every time an engine runs we emit carbon dioxide and it has to go somewhere. It doesn’t miraculously disappear, it stays in the atmosphere,” is an ominous reminder from Wolfgang Lucht of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, a German government-funded research institute. He expressed his grave concern after scientists “detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide on May 11, 2019 in Earth’s atmosphere since records began, sounding new alarm over the relentless rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has been tracking atmospheric carbon dioxide levels since the late 1950s, on Saturday morning (May 11, 2019) detected “415.26 parts per million (ppm).”

This is the “first time on record that it measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm,” the observatory stated, adding: “The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much carbon dioxide was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest.”

Coming to the Nagaland State situation, the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB) had reminded the people on May 15 that “air quality is deteriorating in Nagaland with air pollution failing to meet guidelines for safe levels, putting people at additional risk of respiratory disease and other health problems.”

What do all these messages mean to our society?

The number of carbon dioxide emitting factories and vehicles increasing at an astronomical rate would also mean that higher health risk will be ubiquitous.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 20 lakh people die every year “linked” to unsafe food and water.

It further predicted that Climate Change is likely to cause about “250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress” between 2030 and 2050.

It also reported that the “direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030”. It then cautioned that “areas with weak health infrastructure” will face a tough time in trying to cope with the situation.

Writing in OPEN magazine, Dr Ambrish Mithal, chairman and head, Endocrinology and Diabetes Division at Medanta, the Medicity, Gurgaon noted that “living in modern Indian cities is like living in a gas cauldron”.

“Over the years, it has become evident that several other serious, potentially life threatening conditions—heart disease, stroke, cancer and kidney disease—are also linked to air pollution,” he added. According to him, pollution increases the risk of diabetes, too, besides lung disorders.

Given the grim picture, it has become pressingly urgent to begin with localized engagements with the issues, even as our semi-comatose “concerned authorities” also continue to do their parts in their own ways.