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Climate change is going to change the way India eats—and kill over 135,000 by 2050

Reuters/Ajay Verma
Deadly gases.
By Madhura Karnik
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Climate change could kill half a million people globally, and more than a hundred thousand in India over the next 35 years.

Asia’s third-largest economy will see over 135,000 deaths by 2050 only because of the effects of climate change on food consumption, according to a new study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal.

China will see even more deaths than India because of changes in agriculture and food consumption. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, involved 155 countries. It estimates that climate change will lead to 529,000 additional deaths globally.

Climate change is typically—as the UK’s Met Office describes—”a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures.” This includes sudden warming or cooling, a change in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea levels, or even melting of glaciers. Even though some reasons for climate change are natural, most of the current changes are said to be man-made, including the increase in the emission of greenhouse gases, among others.

The study predicts that climate change will adversely impact food production. ”The model projects that by 2050, climate change will lead to per-person reductions of 3·2% in global food availability, 4% in fruit and vegetable consumption, and 0·7% in red meat consumption,” the report said.

This change in dietary habits will cause an increase in lifestyle diseases. Already lifestyle diseases are among the biggest health risks in India. For instance, about 60% of the total deaths in India are due to non-communicable diseases like heart infections, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory diseases.

Here is how the report explained the link between climate change and diseases:

Climate change leads to changes in temperature and precipitation that are expected to reduce global crop productivity cause changes in food production and consumption and affect global population health by changing the composition of diets and, with it, the profile of dietary and weight-related risk factors and associated mortalities. The results of this study indicate that even quite modest reductions in per-person food availability could lead to changes in the energy content and composition of diets that are associated with substantial negative health implications.

The study further suggests that stabilisation of climate can bring down these deaths by anywhere between 29% and 71% depending on how strictly they are adopted. Moreover, “strengthening of public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet and weight-related risk factors could be a suitable climate change adaptation strategy,” the report added.

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