Is Global Warming A “Slow-Motion Disaster?” Not for India

On the eighth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th 2001, there are still many challenges to create a more secure world.  Global warming has been highlighted recently as a threat to national security- but climate adaptation can help build more resilient, healthy communities.

I've been traveling in India for the last ten days with NRDC colleagues Anjali Jaiswal and Seth Silverman, as part of a new India initiative. We attended the Joint Indo-U.S. Workshop on Climate Change and Health in Goa, India where we heard climate-health researchers from both countries talk about the enormous challenges India faces from a changing climate. Andy Revkin has called global warming a "slow-motion disaster." In India, we can see what full-speed looks like.

Heat and drought throughout much of India are devastating communities and food supplies this year. When rains break the drought, flooding frequently contaminates water supplies. In 1999, 700,000 in India died from diarrheal illness, most of them children. Insect-borne diseases still plague India: millions of malaria cases are reported in India each year.

For nearly 300 million people in India who live on less than one dollar a day, extreme weather events are a matter of life and death.

And heat waves, drought, floods, and disease outbreaks are projected to become more intense, last longer, and happen more often or over larger areas as global warming continues.

This is a public health emergency. Climate-health adaptation needs to receive more support so implementation can begin, for projects that include early warning systems for heat waves and floods, dikes to hold back contaminated floodwaters, low-tech water supply and storage for rural villages, among a host of other ideas.

Speaking with Indian government and business leaders, we found enthusiastic support for climate-health adaptation. It's time for the U.S. to get energized about climate-health preparedness, too.

  • Reducing adverse health impacts is a key reason to reduce global warming emissions.
  • Climate change is a global problem that is harming health in every nation.
  • Emissions reductions must be accompanied by climate adaptations to help communities cope with health effects already being felt.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (or ACES) passed by the House of Representatives in June is now before the US Senate. ACES has provisions that would support funds for international climate adaptations. It would also establish a Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Fund to enhance state and local preparedness here at home.

Let's move ahead and reduce global warming pollution, support international efforts to adapt to climate-health disasters, and secure our own domestic preparedness fund by passing ACES in the Senate. Then we can really begin the business of learning how to thrive together in a changing world.