By Elton Gomes
India can get health benefits worth $3-8 trillion by making efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius by the end this century, as per a special report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released at the UN climate conference, COP24, in Poland.
The report shows that more than 1 million lives can be saved every year across the world from air pollution alone by 2050. This can be done by meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement.
The value of the health gains has been estimated to be around twice the cost of the policies, and the largest gains are expected to be made by China and India.
China is expected to gain $0.27-2.31 trillion by pursuing the 1.5 degree Celsius global warming target.
“The most recent evidence indicates that the gains for health to be derived from scenarios that meet the Paris goal for reduced climate warming would more than cover the financial cost of mitigation at global level and would cover it several times over in countries such as China and India,” the report, titled Health & Climate Change said, as per a Times of India report.
More than two million deaths occur prematurely in India due to pollution, accounting for 25% of the global deaths due to air pollution. China closely follows India, registering around 1.8 million pollution-related deaths.
The impact of air pollution
Exposure to air pollution causes seven million deaths worldwide every year and costs an estimated $5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally.
In the 15 countries that emit the largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than four percent of their GDP (gross domestic product). Actions to meet the Paris goals would cost around one percent of the global GDP.
“The evidence is clear that climate change is already having a serious impact on human lives and health. It threatens the basic elements we all need for good health — clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply and safe shelter — and will undermine decades of progress in global health. We can’t afford to delay action any further,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
The human activities that are destabilising the earth’s climate are also the ones that are contributing directly to poor health. The main driver of climate change is fossil fuel combustion which is also a major contributor to air pollution.
“The true cost of climate change is felt in our hospitals and in our lungs. The health burden of polluting energy sources is now so high that moving to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems effectively pays for itself,” WHO Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Maria Neira said in the statement.
PM Modi says his promise is rooted in Vedas
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the motivation for his “strong commitment” to battle global warming is rooted in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas.
Modi and Guterres met last week on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the two spoke about climate change and India’s support for the Paris Climate Agreement.
“It’s not only Christianity, I was speaking to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi of India recently and asking him what was his motivation for his very strong commitment to climate action and he said it’s in the Vedas, the founding books of Hinduism. I think this is felt in all religions,” Guterres said at a press conference in Poland on Monday, as per a PTI report.
The UN Secretary General was responding to a question on whether he thinks various religions can play a role in the field of climate change.
Sir David Attenborough’s speech
Famous nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has told world leaders that climate change could lead to the collapse of civilizations and much of the natural world.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the COP24 UN climate conference, in Katowice, Poland, Sir Attenborough called climate change “our greatest threat in thousands of years.”
Attenborough was there to represent the public, by taking the “People’s Seat” at the conference. He said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.
“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon,” as per a BBC report.
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) December 5, 2018
“Leaders of the world you must lead,” he said further. “The continuation of our civilizations and the natural world on which we depend is in your hands.”
“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now,” he said, as per the BBC report.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius