A recent report has sounded an alarm on the impending global health crisis due to escalating climate change, warning that if immediate action is not taken, the survival of billions will be at risk.
Rising temperatures have already caused an alarming increase in heat-related fatalities, while harmful bacteria are proliferating along coastlines, and economies are faltering due to the climate crisis’ impact on labor and food production.
This report is the eighth annual document on health and climate change released by the Lancet Countdown team. It criticizes the ongoing investment in fossil fuels and emphasizes that earlier warnings about climate change’s implications for public health have been mainly ignored.
This report coincides with the first Health Day at Cop28, focusing on the intricate connection between climate change and human health.
In 2021, 127 million more people were struggling with moderate to severe food insecurity than in the previous three decades. This significant increase puts them at risk of malnutrition and other irreversible health issues.
A rise in global temperatures has led to the spread of life-threatening diseases like dengue, malaria, and West Nile virus. The warming of the oceans has resulted in the vibrio bacteria spreading along coasts at an alarming rate, putting 1.4 billion people at risk of severe diseases.
The report also revealed a stark increase in heat-related deaths among the elderly, up 85 percent since the 1990s. The report suggests that rising global temperatures are escalating the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and adverse pregnancy outcomes due to the worsening air pollution.
The team of 114 experts from 52 research institutions and UN agencies warns that the current impacts on global health could be just the tip of the iceberg if the world continues on its present course.
The economic losses from climate-related events were estimated at $264 billion in 2022, a 23 percent rise from 2010-14. If the global temperature increases by 2C, heat-related deaths will rise by 370 percent, and work hours lost will increase by 50 percent by mid-century.
Despite these grim projections, the report does highlight some positive trends. Deaths from air pollution derived from fossil fuels have decreased by 16 percent since 2005, primarily due to efforts to reduce coal burning. Moreover, global investment in clean energy surpassed fossil fuel investment by 61 percent in 2022.
However, the report emphasizes the urgency of immediate and substantial action to mitigate the looming health crisis due to climate change. It warns that “inaction has an enormous human cost,” reminding us that every moment of delay narrows the path to a sustainable future and makes adaptation increasingly challenging.