Council Commentary

Q&A with Bidhubhusan Mahapatra, Co-Lead of PERCC Initiative

The increasingly destructive impacts of environmental risks and climate change continue to challenge our planet and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations worldwide. This Earth Day, we asked a co-leader of our Population, Environmental Risk and Climate Change (PERCC) Initiative, Bidhubhusan Mahapatra, for his perspective on the Council’s diverse, environmentally focused research portfolio and its relevance for addressing key populations.

Q: What are you working on now as part of the PERCC Initiative?

A: I am particularly interested in examining and understanding inequality in health outcomes within hotspots of climate-induced extreme weather events. In our most recent analysis, we are using a combination of analytical techniques and satellite image data to determine the extent of the population’s vulnerability and related health burden based on geography. In India, we’re also researching how a given location’s agricultural vulnerability to climate change can have an effect on children’s nutritional outcomes. 

Q: Why is this work of interest to you and to those working to address the environment?

A: Our recent work has helped in identifying locations where programmers and policy implementers should prioritize as well as the indicators and population groups they should target. Based on findings from this research, stakeholders and partners can develop more relevant and specific interventions to help populations facing environmental risks that can adversely affect their health and wellbeing. Additionally, the information generated can be used by disaster management authorities to build the capacity of local populations and health systems to protect against climate-accelerated natural disasters. While state and national governments of India, where I focus, have very good disaster management system, our data can provide them with additional evidence and tools to assist in mitigating risk. 

Q: How do you see this research affecting people’s lives? 

A: Our research has the potential to provide relevant, district-level information on specific groups within populations that need to be prioritized with attention and action. If strategic actions are taken based on our research, we can expect less destruction and fewer lives lost due to extreme weather events. We also hope that interventions based on our evidence can reduce malnourishment among children as communities start adapting their agricultural practices to address climate adversities.

Learn more about our PERCC Initiative, which develops evidence on how to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable populations to adapt to environmental risks and the effects of extreme climate change.