India will be among the worst hit countries and face a large number of deaths due to changes in diets and bodyweight from reduced crop productivity, according to a new study on climate change led by the University of Oxford.
The estimate based on a modelling study said climate change could kill more than 500,000 adults worldwide in 2050. The study from the university’s Martin Future of Food programme was published on Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.
The countries that are likely to be worst affected are low- income and middle-income countries, mainly those in the Western Pacific region (264,000 additional deaths) and Southeast Asia (164,000), with almost three-quarters of all climate-related deaths expected to occur in China (248,000) and India (136,000).
The research is considered the strongest evidence yet that climate change could have damaging consequences for food production and health worldwide, a university statement said.
The study led by Marco Springmann is the first of its kind to assess the impact of climate change on diet composition and bodyweight. The study estimates the number of deaths these two factors will cause in 2050 in 155 countries, the statement added.
The study also said unless action is taken to reduce global emissions, climate change could cut the projected improvement in food availability by about a third by 2050, and lead to average per-person reductions in food availability of 3.2% (99 kcal per day), in fruit and vegetable intake of 4.0% (14.9g per day), and red meat consumption of 0.7% (0.5g per day).
“We found that in 2050, these changes could be responsible for around 529,000 extra deaths. We looked at the health effects of changes in agricultural production that are likely to result from climate change and found that even modest reductions in the availability of food per person could lead to changes in the energy content and composition of diets, and these changes will have major consequences for health,” Springmann said.
Cutting emissions could have substantial health benefits, reducing the number of climate-related deaths by 29%-71% depending on the strength of the interventions, the study added.
“Adaptation efforts need to be scaled up rapidly. Public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet- and weight-related risk factors, such as increasing fruit and vegetable intake, must be strengthened as a matter of priority to help mitigate climate-related health effects,” Springmann said.