NEW DELHI: Climate change is having a drastic impact on children who are worst affected and suffering the most from the rise in infectious diseases, malnutrition and rising food prices, a new report in the Lancet Countdown says urging countries to pursue the Paris Agreement pathway and limit warming to secure a healthier future for coming generations.
While the rapid change in climate is primarily driven by the combustion of fossil fuels, India and China sustained the largest increases in daily population exposure to wildfires from 2001–14 to 2015–18, with an increase of over 21 million exposures in India and 17 million exposures in China over this time period, the report on ‘Health and Climate Change’ said.
Globally, 77% of countries experienced an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires.
While children are the worst affected by climate change, the impact on human health continues through adolescence to adulthood and old age.
Through adolescence and beyond, air pollution damages the heart, lungs, and every other vital organ. These effects accumulate over time, and into adulthood, with global deaths attributable to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2·5) remaining at 2.9 million in 2016 and total global air pollution deaths reaching 7 million.
In India, dangerous levels of outdoor fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) contributed over 529,500 premature deaths in 2016.
“With its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, few countries are likely to suffer from the health effects of climate change as much as India. Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm,” says co-author of the report Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India.
The 2019 report said a child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average. Downward trends in global yield potential for all major crops tracked since 1960 threaten food production and food security, with infants often the worst affected by the potentially permanent effects of undernutrition. Children are among the most susceptible to diarrhoeal disease and experience the most severe effects of dengue fever as well.
The Lancet Countdown is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration, dedicated to monitoring the evolving health profile of climate change and providing an independent assessment of the delivery of commitments made by governments worldwide under the Paris Agreement.
The 2019 report presents an annual update of 41 indicators across five key domains: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. The report represents the findings and consensus of 35 leading academic institutions and UN agencies from every continent.


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