‘Air pollution is enhancing urban heat island effect’

Namrata Devikar
Saturday, 21 December 2019

Effects: Due to climate change, there have also been more suitable conditions for the transmission of infectious diseases, according to a report by The Lancet. 

PUNE:  Climate change is here to stay. Its impact is affecting the lives of millions from across the globe. As per a recent report published in Lancet, a scientific journal, worsening air pollution is substantially adding to peak electricity demand on hot days and enhancing the urban heat island effect. 

The 2019 report of The Lancet ‘countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate’ states that India has witnessed an increased number of exposures to heatwaves and wildfires. 

As per the report, 152 of the 196 countries saw an increase in annual daily population exposure to wildfires in 2015-18, as compared to 2001-04, with India alone experiencing an increase of 21 million annual daily exposures.

“This increase not only poses a threat to public health but also results in major economic and social burden in both high-income and low-income countries,” the report states.
“India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Mexico sustained the largest increase in the number of person-days affected by wildfires,” states the report.
Energy use and climate change
As per the report, between 2000 and 2016, the world’s air conditioning stock, residential and commercial more than doubled to 1·62 billion units and the proportion of households with air conditioning increased from 21 per cent to about 30 per cent. 

In 2016, this proportion was 4 per cent in India, 14 per cent in the European Union (EU), 58 per cent in China, and more than 90 per cent in US and Japan.

“Correspondingly, the global prevented fraction of heatwave-related mortality increased from 16 per cent in 2000 to 23 per cent in 2016, ranging from less than 10 per cent in India, Indonesia and South Africa to more than 66 per cent in the US, Japan and Korea,” said the report.

“In 2016, air conditioning accounted for 10 per cent of global electricity consumption and 18·5 per cent of the electricity was used in buildings. These figures are expected to increase in 2050 to 16 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Following the trend in the proportion of households with air conditioning, carbon dioxide emissions from air conditioning are projected to rise to 2 gigatons in 2050 from 1·1 gigatons in 2016. In 2016, the number of premature deaths due to PM2·5 exposure attributable to air conditioning was 2480 in India, 2662 in China, 1088 in the EU, and 749 in the US,” states the report.

Children are the worst affected
The report highlights that the younger generation across the globe is at higher risk. 

“Across the world, children are among the worst affected by climate change. Downward trends in global yield potential for all major crops tracked since 1960 threaten food production and food security, with infants often the worst affected by the potentially permanent effects of undernutrition,” states the report.

It further highlights that children are among the most susceptible to diarrhoeal disease and experience the most severe effects of dengue fever.
“Trends in climate suitability for disease transmission are particularly concerning, with 9 of the 10 most suitable years for the transmission of dengue fever on record occurring since 2000,” said the report. 

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