Heat Deaths: S&P Says India Among Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Over 1,800 people have so far died as a result of a severe heatwave sweeping across India, according to government officials and media reports. The highest death toll is in southern India with 1,700 heat-related deaths in the worst-hit states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where temperatures rose above 45C (113F).

Other parts of the country have been hit by high temperatures ranging between 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) and 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) with 43 heat deaths reported in the eastern state of Orissa, 12 in West Bengal and 7 in the Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat, according to state officials. Most of the deaths were caused by heat stroke and dehydration.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are also hot with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but India is suffering far worse, due in part to its many densely populated areas, according to a CNN report.

As expected, India has blamed Pakistan for heat-related deaths. “In Pakistan’s Sindh, temperatures have shot up to 49, even 50 degrees. Westerly winds are bringing with them this extreme, dry heat through a process called advection (transport),” said BP Yadav, director India Meteorological Department (IMD).

As longer, more severe heat waves become increasingly frequent globally, India appears to be the most affected. Thousands of people died across India during heat waves in 2002 and 2003.  In 2010 around 300 people were killed by intense temperatures, according to media reports of the period.

Bangladesh and India, along with several South East Asian and African nations, are the most vulnerable to climate change, while the United States, Canada and Western Europe are the least vulnerable, according to an assessment by Standard and Poor credit rating service.  The rich industrialized nations which have contribute the most to climate change are the least vulnerable to its disastrous effects now. The report says Pakistan and China are relatively less vulnerable than India and Bangladesh.

Source: Standard and Poor Global Portal

There are two basic reasons why poor countries are bearing the brunt of climate change: geography and poverty. Most of the red countries on the Standard and Poor map lie near the equator, where climate change-caused storms, flooding, and droughts will be more intense, according to media reports.  India is particularly vulnerable because of its rising population and depleting resources.

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

Standard and Poor has ranked 116 nations according to their vulnerability across three indicators: proportion of population living lower than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea-level, share of agriculture in economic output and a vulnerability index compiled by Notre Dame University. It ranks India at 101 and Pakistan at 94 while Bangladesh is ranked at 114 along with Vietnam at 115 and Cambodia at 116 as the most vulnerable among 116 countries. China is ranked at 82. Among African countries listed as most vulnerable are Senegal (113), Mozambique (112) and Nigeria (109).

Standard and Poor's analysts led by Moritz Karemer warned that global warming “will put downward pressure on sovereign ratings during the remainder of this century,” “The degree to which individual countries and societies are going to be affected by warming and changing weather patterns depends largely on actions undertaken by other, often far-away societies.”

Both India and Pakistan have seen recurring droughts and massive flooding in recent years which have resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries in addition to property losses. India has seen one farmer commit suicide every 30 minutes over the last two decades.

The fact is that the developing countries facing huge costs from climate change can do little to control it without significant help from the rich industrialized nations most responsible for it.  The World Bank is warning that this could lead to massive increases in disease, extreme storms, droughts, and flooding. Unless concerted action is taken soon, the World Bank President Jim Kim fears that the effects of climate change could roll back "decades of development gains and force tens of more millions of people to live in poverty."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

India's Rising Population and Depleting Resources

Recurring Droughts and Flooding in Pakistan

An Indian Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes 

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence

Climate Change in South Asia

US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia


Riaz Haq said…
Holding Your Breath in #India #pollution http://nyti.ms/1eCMCxj

By Gardiner Harris

NEW DELHI — FOR weeks the breathing of my 8-year-old son, Bram, had become more labored, his medicinal inhaler increasingly vital. And then, one terrifying night nine months after we moved to this megacity, Bram’s inhaler stopped working and his gasping became panicked.

My wife called a friend, who recommended a private hospital miles away. I carried Bram to the car while my wife brought his older brother. India’s traffic is among the world’s most chaotic, and New Delhi’s streets are crammed with trucks at night, when road signs become largely ornamental. We undertook one of the most frightening journeys of our lives, with my wife in the back seat cradling Bram’s head.

When we arrived, doctors infused him with steroids (and refused to provide further treatment until a $1,000 charge on my credit card went through). A week later, Bram was able to return home.

When I became a South Asia correspondent for The New York Times three years ago, my wife and I were both excited and prepared for difficulties — insistent beggars, endemic dengue and summertime temperatures that reach 120 degrees. But we had little inkling just how dangerous this city would be for our boys.

We gradually learned that Delhi’s true menace came from its air, water, food and flies. These perils sicken, disable and kill millions in India annually, making for one of the worst public health disasters in the world. Delhi, we discovered, is quietly suffering from a dire pediatric respiratory crisis, with a recent study showing that nearly half of the city’s 4.4 million schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from the poisonous air.

For most Indians, these are inescapable horrors. But there are thousands of others who have chosen to live here, including some trying to save the world, others hoping to describe it and still others intent on getting their own small piece of it. It is an eclectic community of expatriates and millionaires, including car executives from Detroit, tech geeks from the Bay Area, cancer researchers from Maryland and diplomats from Dublin. Over the last year, often over chai and samosas at local dhabas or whiskey and chicken tikka at glittering embassy parties, we have obsessively discussed whether we are pursuing our careers at our children’s expense.

Foreigners have lived in Delhi for centuries, of course, but the air and the mounting research into its effects have become so frightening that some feel it is unethical for those who have a choice to willingly raise children here. Similar discussions are doubtless underway in Beijing and other Asian megacities, but it is in Delhi — among the most populous, polluted, unsanitary and bacterially unsafe cities on earth — where the new calculus seems most urgent. The city’s air is more than twice as polluted as Beijing’s, according to the World Health Organization. (India, in fact, has 13 of the world’s 25 most polluted cities, while Lanzhou is the only Chinese city among the worst 50; Beijing ranks 79th.)

So many of our friends have decided to leave that the American Embassy School — this city’s great expat institution — is facing a steep drop in admissions next fall. My pastor, who ministers to a largely expat parish here, told me he feared he would lose 60 percent of his congregants this summer.


There is a growing expatriate literature, mostly out of China, describing the horrors of air pollution, the dangers to children and the increasingly desperate measures taken for protection. These accounts mostly end with the writers deciding to remain despite the horrors.

Not this one. We are moving back to Washington this week.

The boys are excited. Aden, 12, wants a skateboard and bicycle, accouterments of freedom in a place he is allowed to wander by himself. His younger brother’s wish may be harder to realize.

“My asthma will go away,” Bram said recently. “I hope so, anyway.”
Riaz Haq said…
#PopeFrancis #encyclical on #climatechange cites ninth century mystical #Muslim poet Ali-al-Khawas.

http://time.com/3927357/pope-francis-ali-al-khawas/ …

Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change cited many of the usual sources: the Bible, his predecessors in the Vatican and his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. It also cites ninth century mystical Muslim poet Ali-al-Khawas.

In the sixth chapter of the nearly 200-page papal letter, Francis writes that humanity can “discover God in all things.”

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face,” the pope writes.

In a footnote to that quote, he credits al-Khawas for the concept of nature’s “mystical meaning,” noting how the poet stressed “the need not to put too much distance between the creatures of the world and the interior experience of God.”

He then directly quotes the poet: “The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted.”

Alexander Knysh, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan, said that the idea Pope Francis is drawing on in this passage has been influential in literature, including Western figures such as English Romantic poet William Blake.

“According to (the idea), God actively and constantly reminds his servants about his immanent presence not just by means of various phenomena but also by various sounds and noises—rustling of leaves, thunder, rainfall,” Knysh says.

It’s unusual for a pope to cite a Sufi poet, but those who have known Francis since his days in the slums of Argentina say that shows his personal touch on the encyclical.

“He’s trying to foster ecumenical and interfaith dialogue about shared spirituality,” Father Augusto Zampini, an Argentinian priest and theological advisor to the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, tells TIME.

“He’s inviting all human beings to transcend, to go out of themselves and therefore to improve the relationship that we have with our people, with the Earth, with God.”
Riaz Haq said…
The curious case of world's most polluted city #Delhi #India http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/india/shweta-kothari/the-curious-case-of-polluted-delhi-14388-1025524.html …

In an uncanny incidence earlier this year, the US embassy in India bought 1,800 air purifiers in New Delhi. It was later deciphered as a protective measure for the US president Barack Obama from Delhi's toxic air. The air we have been breathing away all our life was deemed so detrimental for the president that the US authorities insisted on curtailing Obama's outdoor activities, according to a newspaper report.
In the past, when fuel emission norms were a far flung reality and vehicle sector was booming, the state of Delhi air had started showing visible signs of impact. So much so that Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) issued an advertisement about 16 years back: "Roll down the window of your bullet-proof car, Mr Prime Minister. The security threat is not the gun, it is the air of Delhi." The environment lobbies vociferously demanded a roadmap for pollution control. Even as some of the demands were met; such as the thrust on clean fuel, use of CNG, Vehicular emission standards etc, the situation steadily depreciated.
So much so that, in November, December and January of 2014-15, the quality of air in Delhi was recorded to be severely polluted for more than 65 per cent of the days. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee data also showed consistently high level of PM2.5 (particulate matter), one of the finest pollutants, capable of making inroads into human lung and blood tissue and increase the risk of heart and lung diseases. While the WHO (World Health Organization) has set a limit of 25 microgram per meter cube, in the past three years the PM2.5 level in the metropolis has been roughly 130 to 170 microgram per cubic meter; 5-7 times more than the permissible limit.
The issue got fresh impetus when Delhi surpassed Beijing to become world’s most polluted city. Soon thereafter, National Green Tribunal (NGT), took cognizance of the matter and held vehicles as the main movement of aviation contamination, thus banning all diesel vehicles over ten years old from plying on Delhi roads. In an earlier judgment last year, NGT had similarly banned petrol vehicles over 15 years old in Delhi. Yet, this time around, the verdict met overwhelming response.
While the Delhi government was quick to applaud the decision and promised swift action, the central government appealed against the ban. Citing an IIT Delhi study, counsel argued that the old vehicles contributes a negligible amount of the air pollution. Various stakeholders mooted their own apprehension of the alarming level of pollutants in the urban center. Speaking to CNBC, Sunita Narain from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) alleged that the government is hands in gloves with the transport sector. Naming the big three commercial vehicle manufacturers, Narain held the government responsible for steering the interest of automobile manufacturers, disregarding public health emergency and ignoring the health risks from direct exposure to vehicular fume.
Riaz Haq said…
#technology Billionaires Team Up to Take On #climatechange Ahead of UN #ParisClimateConference http://www.wired.com/2015/11/zuckerberg-gates-climate-change-breakthrough-energy-coalition/ … via @WIRED

Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and pretty much every other crazy rich tech leader you can imagine have announced that they’re banding together to combat climate change with a new partnership called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Their timing couldn’t be better—or more telling.

Through the partnership, the group’s members have committed to use a substantial portion of their hundreds of billions of dollars in collective net worth to invest in early stage clean energy companies.

Zuckerberg wrote a Facebook post Sunday night announcing the partnership, complete with a photo of WIRED’s 2010 cover shoot of Zuckerberg and Gates. In the post, Zuckerberg framed clean energy as foundational to solving so many of the world’s other problems. “Solving the clean energy problem is an essential part of building a better world,” he wrote. “We won’t be able to make meaningful progress on other challenges—like educating or connecting the world—without secure energy and a stable climate.”

The timing of the announcement coincides with the global climate conference, COP21, taking place in Paris this week, where world leaders including President Barack Obama will convene to discuss their plans to deal with climate change. On one hand, with this timing, the Coalition is capitalizing on the fact that clean energy is on everyone’s radar this week. On the other hand, the announcement smacks of a distinctly tech-centric belief, shared by so many in Silicon Valley, that there’s only so much that the government leaders gathered at COP21 will ever be able to accomplish without the private sector’s help.

In a video explaining his involvement with the coalition, Bill Gates essentially said as much.


“If you look at where we’ve had huge success in the past, the government’s been there to fund the basic research,” he says in the video, adding that the government was critical to funding the research that led to the creation of the Internet. “We need the basic research, but we have to pair that with people who are willing to fund high-risk breakthrough energy companies.”

There’s no word yet on just how much the members of the coalition—which also include Jack Ma, Meg Whitman, George Soros, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer—plan to invest. But they say they will fund startups in a range of industries, from agriculture to transportation to electricity storage. They’ll also focus the investments on the countries that are part of Mission Innovation—a consortium of 20 countries, including the US, that have committed to doubling their investment in clean energy over the next five years.
Riaz Haq said…
#India reported 2,736 #weather-related deaths in 2017, 2nd to #PuertoRico's 2,978 fatalities. It improved to14th most vulnerable country to #climate risk, from 6th in 2016 and 4th in 2015. India lost 73,000 human lives from extreme weather in 20 years. https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2018-12-05-india-extreme-weather-death

At a Glance
India reported 2,736 extreme weather-related deaths in 2017. Puerto Rico came in first, with 2,978 fatalities.
However, India improved its overall tally to become 14th most vulnerable country to climate risk, from 6th in 2016 and 4th in 2015.
In the last 20 years, India had reported losses of over 73,000 human lives from extreme weather.
India was globally the 14th most vulnerable country to climate risk in terms of extreme weather-related losses in 2017, improving its tally from sixth in 2016 and fourth in 2015. But the country was ranked second for fatalities suffered in such weather-related events.

India had hit its lowest vulnerability position in 2013, when it was No. 3 in the global Climate Risk Index (CRI) rankings, the latest edition of which was released on the sidelines of the UN climate conference at Katowice in Poland on Tuesday.


India’s improved ranking in 2017 can be attributed to the country’s expertise in predicting cyclones quite accurately and the gradual improvement in its disaster response system. “India has improved its prediction capability over the years. We are in a position to forewarn people three days in advance and that’s helped us to save lives during extreme weather events,” said Madhavan Rajeevan, secretary of the ministry of earth sciences (MoES).

India hit its lowest CRI ranking in 2013 due to the heavy loss of life and property in the Uttarakhand flash floods. The Kerala floods this year may, however, affect its ranking next year. So, the CRI based on 2018 data will point to the country’s climate preparedness as compared to other vulnerable countries across the globe.

Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka and Dominica suffered the most in 2017 while Puerto Rico, Honduras and Myanmar were impacted the strongest in the 20-year period from 1998 to 2017. In this period, globally, over 5,26,000 fatalities were directly linked to more than 11,500 extreme weather events. Besides, the world suffered economic damage worth approximately $3.47 trillion (calculated in PPP) during the same period.

The vulnerability of poorer countries becomes visible in the long-term index, in which eight of the 10 countries most affected between 1998 and 2017 are developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita. “But industrialised and emerging economies must also do more to address climate impacts that they themselves feel more clearly than ever before. Effective climate protection as well as increasing resilience is therefore also in the self-interest of these countries,” said lead author of the index, David Eckstein, citing the example of the US, which was ranked 12th in the 2017 index, reporting 389 fatalities and $177.9 billion in losses due to extreme weather conditions.

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