Over 42,000 more people projected to die in Odisha due to climate change


Bhubaneswar: The number of extremely hot days in Odisha is projected to increase by 30 times from 1.62 in 2010 to 48.05 by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at current rates till the end of the century.

Odisha is projected to see 42,334 excess climate-related deaths due to an increase in temperature.

India, as a whole, will see the number of extremely hot days per year increasing by more than eight times from 5.1 (in 2010) to 42.8 (by 2100), shows a new study released in Bhubaneswar on Monday.

The study is the first in a series of findings estimating the human and economic costs of climate change and weather shocks in India, conducted by the Climate Impact Lab in collaboration with the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago.  

Under a high-emission scenario, the state is projected to see a 3.32°C rise in average summer temperature from 28.87°C in 2010 to 32.19°C by 2100. It is far higher than the national average increase from about 24°C to about 28°C by the end of the century. Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh is close behind, which is likely to see a temperature rise of 3.07°C.

By analysing highly spatially detailed climate data from 33 global climate models, the study reveals some alarming results that emphasise why urgent climate action is required to limit global temperature rise.

“Odisha has a history of experiencing extreme heat-related fatalities. In the year 1998, the State of Odisha faced an unprecedented Heat Wave situation, resulting in 2042 deaths. Though extensive awareness campaigns have largely reduced the number of casualties during the post 1998 period, still a number of casualties are being reported each year.

With climate change projections signalling a 30 times rise in extremely hot days, it calls for amplified efforts to be put in place to build resilience, particularly for the vulnerable communities,” said Pradeep Kumar Nayak, Chief General Manager, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority.

According to the study, under a high-emission scenario, 16 out of the 36 states and union territories are estimated to become hotter than Punjab, which is currently the hottest state in India with an average annual temperature just below 32°C (as of 2010).

Punjab is likely to continue to be India’s hottest state in 2100 with average annual temperature around 36°C.

The spike in average summer temperature and number of extremely hot days has an impact on mortality, finds the study. Odisha is projected to see 42,334 excess climate-related deaths due to increase in temperature.

It is almost five times more than the total deaths the state records due to cardiac arrest every year. Six states, Uttar Pradesh (402,280), Bihar (136,372), Rajasthan (121,809), Andhra Pradesh (116,920), Madhya Pradesh (108,370), and Maharashtra (106,749) will contribute 64% of the total excess deaths—1,543,708—due to temperature rise.

Between 2010 and 2018, over 6,100 people have died in India due to heat wave, with Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal together reporting more than 90% of total deaths.

Michael Greenstone, faculty director at the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago and a co-founder of the Climate Impact Lab said, “These finding makes clear that the continued reliance on fossil fuels globally will greatly harm the well-being of Indians in the coming years and decades. They also underscore the need to find innovative adaptation strategies.

This global energy challenge that requires countries to balance the need for inexpensive and reliable sources of energy that is critical for growth, while managing climate and air pollution risks is perhaps the defining challenges of our generation.”

 “The impact of carbon emissions is going to be more pronounced on societies across the globe, including India, which has already seen 2,500 deaths due to a heat wave in 2015.

The future is going to be even more worrying if a course correction is not embarked upon at the earliest and investments are not made towards mitigating the harmful effects of climate change,” said Amir Jina, assistant professor at the Harris Public Policy and researcher at the Climate Impact Lab.

The presentation of the report was followed by a panel discussion on the impact of climate change and extreme weather events in Odisha.

The panelists included Nayak and Amir along with Srijit Mishra, Director, Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies and Ambarish Dutta, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health-Bhubaneswar, Public Health Foundation of India.

The discussion focused on how climate change could affect Odisha in the future. The panelists called for a coherent strategy on building climate resilience across sectors and communities to limit the threat climate change and extreme weather events pose.