India’s vulnerability to the extremes of heat was 15% higher in 2019 as compared to 1990, according to medical journal The Lancet’s report on health and climate change, which was released on Wednesday.

The “2021 report on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future” said that between 2018 and 2019, India and Brazil registered the biggest absolute increase in heat-related mortality.

“Heat-related mortality for people older than 65 years increased throughout the study, reaching a record high of almost 3,45,000 deaths [globally] in 2019 – 80.6% higher than in the 2000-05 average,” the report said.

The Lancet said its report exposed an “unabated rise in the health impacts of climate change and the current health consequences of the delayed and inconsistent response of countries around the globe”.

The report called for “accelerated action” that prioritises the health of people and the planet.

The Lancet report said that in 2021, people over 65 years of age, those facing social disadvantages and children below the age of one were the most affected by the record temperatures in the United States and Canada.

The document said that hundreds of people have died prematurely because of the heat.

“Furthermore, populations in countries with low and medium levels of UN-defined human development index have had the biggest increase in heat vulnerability during the past 30 years, with risks to their health further exacerbated by the low availability of cooling mechanisms and urban green space,” it added.

India, China, Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria were among the five countries where vulnerable populations had the highest exposure to heatwaves.

Source: The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change.

The Lancet report said that agricultural workers in countries with low and medium human development indices were among the worst affected by exposure to heat. They bore “almost half of the 295 billion potential work hours lost due to heat in 2020”, the report said.

The document flagged that the climate change has led to conditions which are suitable for the increased spread of many “water-borne, air-borne, food-borne, and vector-borne pathogens”.

“Although socioeconomic development, public health interventions, and advances in medicine have reduced the global burden of infectious disease transmission, climate change could undermine eradication efforts” it said.

The report said that rising temperatures and the change in rainfall patterns have begun to undo the progress made in fighting food and water insecurities in the world.

“In parallel with drought, warm temperatures are affecting the yield potential of the world’s major staple crops – a 6.0% reduction for maize; 3.0% for winter wheat; 5.4% for soybean; and 1.8% for rice in 2020, relative to 1981–2010 (indicator 1.4.1) – exposing the rising risk of food insecurity,” it added.

The document said that in any given month in 2020, up to 19% of the global land surface was impacted by extreme drought. This value did not cross 13% between 1950 and 1999, it added.

Maria Romanello, the lead author of the report, said it was time to acknowledge that no one is safe from the impact of climate change, Bloomberg reported. “These are grim warnings that for every day that we delay our response to climate change, the situation gets more critical,” she said.