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Social Impacts of Climate Change in India

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The world is getting warmer, Climate change is the foremost challenge ever visaged by human social, political and economic systems. India  is witnessing climate change at a speedy rate because of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The price of addressing the issue of climate change is not equitably divided. The most vulnerable people have to share higher financial burden, for example, using less carbon-emitting public transport can increase the fare, which will increase the expense for lower-income society.

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Millions of people such as female-headed households, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, migrant workers, older people, and other socially marginalized groups suffer greater problems such as food security, health issues, livelihood, security etc. There is a need for proper policy formation which will help vulnerable people to be protected from being disproportionately impacted by the costs of addressing climate change.

The situation is further worsened by cumulative effect of climate change and growing air pollution mainly due to rapid urbanisation merged with industrialisation.

Population also plays a major factor as the excess use of vehicles contributes to a higher air pollution level. As per statistics, 95% of high NO2 concentrations have been emitted from vehicles followed by industries and fuel burning. 

Air Pollution is very harmful and a leading cause for serious health issues like heart ailments, strokes, bronchitis, asthma and lung cancer. Microscopic pollutants in the air slip past our body’s defences, damaging our lungs, heart and brain.

Thermal power or electricity from burning coal must be stopped if we are to control global warming. This could save millions of lives globally through reductions in air pollution alone. Moreover, addressing to the above health issues also has a huge economic burden as the expenditures involved make a big dent on the GDP.

Climate Change also disturbs the water cycle. Soaring temperatures raise evaporation from land and oceans. This added evaporation can dry out some areas and fall as excess precipitation in others. This may lead to increasing instances of drought in some areas and flooding in others.

As a result the population living in both areas bear the impact on their health and also suffer economically. Fresh water becomes a scarce commodity. Rising population adds to this scarcity. It severally affects our economy which is primarily dependent on agriculture and allied industries. Millions of poor people associated are adversely affected.

Melting ice caps, ice sheets and glaciers, as well as expanding warming waters, lead to rise in sea levels. This might hurt coastal communities and numerous ecosystems, as well as contaminate fresh water supplies. High levels of rainfall could damage important infrastructure like sewer systems and water treatment plants and lead to water pollution due to flowing of fertilizers, sediment, trash and other pollutants into water sources.

Elevated levels of nutrients in water can cause algae to grow at excessive rates. When this algae dies, bacteria lowers the level of oxygen in the water where nothing would survive. Garbage that flows into the ocean waters can also kill marine life that mistake it for food or get caught in it. Chemical pollution can also hurt or kill marine life. It would accumulate in sea creatures in increasing amounts, eventually affecting humans.

Most of stomach diseases in India are caused by the dearth of safe water and inadequate sanitation. Waterborne diseases like Cholera, Typhoid, Paratyphoid fever, Dysentery, Diarrhea, Tuberculosis, Jaundice, and Amoebiasis etc. are the biggest cause of human mortality in India. Kids are worst affected, especially in rural areas and urban slums. 

Deforestation also leads to climate change. When trees are cut, much of the stored carbon in them is released into the atmosphere. It also hampers the soil quality and causes desertification. Agricultural production decreases and there is food shortage. Deforestation causes landslides which makes life difficult for humans living in those areas. It also harms animal species which survive in forests.

Weather events such as cyclones, typhoons, strong winds also have adverse effects on human health and mortality. Change in climate causes extreme cold or hot weather conditions and as a consequence vector-borne infections, air-borne infections, diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition and many other health issues arise.

India urgently needs an appropriate and updated policy to address the challenges involved with climate change. It is not only an environmental crisis but a big social crisis too.

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Mukesh Kwatra
Mukesh Kwatra
Dr. Mukesh Kwatra, Environmentalist & Founder of Smiling tree

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