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Issue 16
August , 2009
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WHO cares

Suparna Dutta
Source: Toxics Alert, Date: August , 2009

WHO, in collaboration with community-based NGO Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth/Student Health Action Network (HRIDAY-SHAN)have come up with an excellent student –teacher manual in an attempt to sensitize children and growing adults the correlation between climate change and adverse health impact of humans. The manual meant for students is separate from that for teachers but both try to tell us how to respond to these impacts.

Climate change is often associated with ecosystem destruction and disappearing species. But climate change affects our lives in a more direct way: our health Unfortunately the impact of climate change on human health is not generally acknowledged . The fact that anthropogenic changes in climate affect human health , in an indirect or direct way, needs to be disseminated among our communities , particularly among the youth who hold in their hands to change the future.

There is no dearth of data or access to it. Human memory should also not be failing because the cataclysmic impacts of climate change bore injuries too deep to be forgotten in a long time. Eighteen heat waves were reported in India between 1980 and 1998.A heat wave in 1988 caused 1300 deaths while another in 2003 caused more than 3000.In 2005 there were floods in Rajasthan and droughts in northeast India. Twelve of the last thirteen years from 1995 to 2007 rank among the warmest years since 1850.The years 1998, 2005 and 2007 were the warmest on record. The Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly, the mangrove tiger habitat of the Sunderbans are facing threats from rising sea level, and in Indonesia cases of dengue fever have risen by close to 50 % between 2006 and 2007 due to temperature increases during and after the annual rains.


Urban settings are biggest emitters of Green House Gases (GHGs) Mega cities produce heat island effect that refers mainly to urban settings where buildings and asphalt roads absorb and release more solar energy than any other surfaces and thus make the surrounding temperature shoot up dramatically. Even children’s GK books would tell you that CO2 levels are estimated to rise another 30 % during the next 50 years at the current rate of irresponsible emission. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached an unprecedented level of 385 parts per million , highest in the last 6.5 million years.

Various weather events have various human health impacts. Warm temperatures and disturbed rainfall patterns lead to diseases like malaria, dengue, encephalitis and other vector-borne maladies. Heavy precipitation leads to diseases arising out of water contamination. Safe water depletion couples with poor sanitation and leads to cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.Add to this the loss of life and habitat due to intense weather conditions , rise of sea level , coastal storms etc ., all of which are direct or indirect aftermaths of climate change,and you would know how imminent the dangers are.

A –Z tips of actionables to battle climate change and its impacts:

  • Act now
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances
  • Calculate your personal carbon footprint
  • Debate , discuss and distribute materials on climate change
  • Enjoy the sun: fit solar panels on the roof of your home and turn it into a clean green power station
  • Fridge to be handled properly to cut down power consumption and thereby carbon emission.
  • Go green
  • Halve your emission by moving your air conditioner thermostat up by 5 degrees Celsius in summer
  • Involve friends and family in your green mission
  • Join an environmental group
  • Kick start a environmental campaign
  • Lamps to be replaced by CFLs
  • Minimise use of toxic chemicals
  • Network with civil societies, NGOs etc
  • Offset your carbon footprint
  • Plant trees
  • Quit plastic
  • Recycle, repair, reuse materials
  • Save paper
  • Turn off TV, fridge etc when not in use
  • Use less energy and conserve more of it
  • Value waste: heaps of garbage left in the open emit methane and contribute to global warming
  • Write letters to local newspapers
  • Xpress your concern in all forums possible
  • Your President, PM need to know impacts of climate change on health. Write to them.
  • Zoom in on reducing emission

If we follow these rules there is good chance that we would still have a blue planet to survive on!