NEW DELHI: India can get massive health benefits worth $3- $8 trillion by making efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end this century, says a special report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released at the UN climate conference in Poland.
The assessment shows over 1 million lives can be saved every year worldwide from air pollution alone by 2050 by meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement. The value of the health gains is estimated to be around twice the cost of the policies, while the largest gains would be expected in China and India.
China is expected to gain $0.27-2.31 trillion by pursuing the 1.5°C 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. Over two million deaths occur prematurely in India due to pollution, accounting for 25% of the global deaths due to air pollution. India is closely followed by China, registering around 1.8 million pollution-related deaths.
Recently, WHO has also linked India's toxic air to the premature deaths of 1,10,000 children, highest in the world in the category of children under five years of age, attributed to their exposure to ambient air pollution of particulate matter 2.5.
Globally, exposure to air pollution causes seven million deaths every year, resulting in $5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally, nearly doubling the losses in 1990, the latest assessment shows.
Climate change can affect human health both directly and indirectly. The direct health impacts include physiological effects of exposure to higher temperatures, increasing incidences of non-communicable diseases such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and death due to extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, storms and wildfires.
Climate change also has indirect effects on health due to ecological changes, such as food and water insecurity and the spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases, and also to societal responses to climate change, such as population displacement and reduced access to health services.
“The Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, with an absolute ceiling well below 2.0 °C, are essential to protect health in the medium to long term,” the report said.
“The Paris Agreement is potentially the strongest health agreement of this century,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
The report highlights that health gains of meeting the two degrees target would also significantly offset the costs in other regions, such as the European Union (seven-84%) and the US (10-41%).
In the 15 countries that emit the most green house gases (GHGs), the health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than 4% of their GDP, whereas actions to meet the Paris goals would cost around one per cent of the global GDP, the report said.
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