India lost 118 billion work hours due to heat in ’19: Study
India recorded the highest loss in work hours or productivity because of extreme heat in 2019. Across the globe, a potential 302 billion work hours were lost in 2019, 103 billion hours more than the hours lost in 2000.
Only 13 countries made up 80.7% of the global work hours lost in 2019, with India recording the greatest total loss and Cambodia the highest per-capita loss for any country. India lost 118.3 billion work hours and 111.2 work hours per person in 2019 alone, according to the Lancet Countdown report on health and climate change released on Thursday morning.
By 2015, the estimated loss in earnings because of heat stress reached as high as 3.9–5.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) for lower-middle-income countries tracked by Lancet authors, including India, Indonesia and Cambodia.
In 2019, India also saw a record number of above-baseline days of heatwave exposure affecting people aged above 65 years. During the past 20 years, there has been a 53.7% increase in heat-related deaths globally among people older than 65 years, reaching a total of 296,000 deaths in 2018. The highest number of deaths among the elderly in 2018 were reported in China (62,000) and India (31,000 deaths) followed by Germany, the US, Russia and Japan.
“There is an increase in the intensity, duration, and extent of heatwaves over South Asia — particularly the India-Pakistan region,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, citing a study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, as predicting an increase in heatwaves by up to sixfold under a 2° Celsius warming scenario.
“This means that the health impacts due to the rising heatwaves also would be large. While we have an excellent weather forecasting system, we also need to work on health forecasting systems,” Koll said.
The report warned that the imprint of climate change on extreme weather events was now clear. Advancements in climate science allow for greater accuracy and certainty in attribution, it said, adding that studies from 2015 to 2020 have shown the imprint of climate change on 76 floods, droughts, storms, and temperature extremes.
According to the report, drafted by 120 global health and climate change academics, 40 to 60 million people in India will be exposed to a sea level rise of 5 metres by the end of the century. Around 67% of global cities surveyed expected climate change to seriously compromise their public health assets and infrastructure.
The report concluded that “the window of opportunity is narrow, and, if the response to Covid-19 is not fully and directly aligned with national climate change strategies, the world will be unable to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, damaging health and health systems today, and in the future.”
The report underlined that Covid-19 and climate change were interlinked crises. “The pandemic has shown us that when health is threatened on a global scale, our economies and ways of life can come to a standstill,” Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown, said in a statement.
Vivek Adhia, country director for India at the Institute for Sustainable Communities, said, ”Even as we were measuring up to address the existing development gaps, the Covid-19 pandemic further underscored implications with increased risks, on the most vulnerable constituencies.”