The Lancet Report: Labour loss due to Heatwave


  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper III
  • Environment, Healthcare, Labour, Heatwave

Why in News?

  • The Lancet countdown on health and climate 2018has reported that India was particularly affected by the rising frequency of heatwave events and lost about 75 billion hours of work

Findings of the report:

  • Climate change is making more people vulnerable to heat exposure and air pollution in India leading to one lakh premature deaths and 7 per cent reduction in country’s labour force.
  • Ambient air pollution from the coal-based power plants leads to 107,000 premature deaths in India. Both the young and the elderly living in the close vicinity of such power plants have been found equally vulnerable.
  • Global impact:Globally, in 2017, 153 billion hours of labour were lost due to heat exposure, an increase of 62 billion hours compared to 2000.
  • Vulnerable regions:The report also says that the already vulnerable areas in India, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, and South America are bearing the brunt of the climate change.
  • India is one of the most vulnerable places and experiences at least half of the extreme heat exposure
  • In 2017, 157 million vulnerable people were exposed to heatwaves globally, and 153 billion hours of labour were lost due to heat exposure.

Impact of Climate change on Socio-Economic and health sector:

  • The Lancet Countdown 2018study places India among the countries that have suffered high social and economic costs from climate change, particularly carbon emissions and air pollution from coal burning.
  • Natural disasters: The report explains that the climate change is not only triggering natural disasters but also affecting the health and well-being of the millions of people in many countries across the globe.
  • Health: Climate change is leading to health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illness, mental illness besides fuelling the spread of vector- borne diseases like dengue and malaria. This is also true of some other infections.
  • Labor Hours: The climate change and heat exposure have hit the labour forcein the country hard.
  • The study says India is losing 7 per cent of its work forcedue to heat exposure and the impact is mostly felt in the labour-intensive agriculture sector, the mainstay of Indian economy.
  • India witnessed 40 million more heat wave exposure cases in 2016 compared to 2012.
  • Agriculture: In the agriculture sector, the labour hours lost increased from 40,000 million hours in 2000 to 60,000 million hours in 2017.
  • Labour: The analysis shows that 75,000 million hours of labour was lost in 2017 as compared to 43,000 hours in 2000 due to heat exposure.

Need for Policy Change:

  • The report indicates implications for rural employmentand the well-being of a large section of the population that depends on farming.
  • At stake for all countries in the developing world is the health of millions, many of them already vulnerable to extreme weather events.
  • Coming on the eve of the UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, the report of the Lancetpanel for 2018 brings clarity, placing connected issues in perspective for governmental action.
  • It is vital that India gets more ambitious about cutting back on carbon emissions, even as it presses for the fulfilment of the climate finance obligations of developed countries under the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • A further reduction in the share of coalin the energy mix through sustained support for renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaics, must form the cornerstone of national policy.
  • This must be matched by a shift away from use of fossil fuels for transport, and the induction of more electric vehicles.
  • Such a policy would yield the parallel benefit of improving air quality; ambient air pollutionled to the premature death of an estimated half a million people in India in 2015.
  • India recently witnessed floods in Kerala and Cyclone Gaja in Tamil Nadu.
  • India’s approach to adaptation should, therefore, prepare for catastropheswith a well-considered plan to provide relief and rehabilitation. A case could be made for climate funds under the Paris Agreement.
  • The importance of funds for adaptation is underscored by Lancet’s finding that 99% of losses from climate-related events in low-income countries were not insured.
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