Climate change is the biggest health threat of this century

Reducing emissions means protecting our health: if not mitigated, climate change will pose increasingly serious challenges to human well-being …
Reducing emissions means protecting our health: if not mitigated, climate change will pose increasingly serious challenges to human well-being.
Its impacts include climate change; Changes in precipitation will affect human health around the world, such as more intense drought and heat waves, sea level rise and stronger hurricanes. In the United States alone, the health costs of climate change and air pollution currently exceed US$800 billion per year and will continue to rise, according to the report The Costs of Inaction, published earlier this year.

Air pollution in Los Angeles, USA © David McNew/Getty Images

Climate change and its impact on health
The American Health Organization defines deaths, diseases and injuries caused by extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes as the direct effects of climate change on human health. These are felt with varying intensity according to the age, gender, health and socioeconomic status of the person, and place of residence.
It was the second warmest year in 141 years on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2020 Annual Climate Report, and since 1880, annual land and ocean temperatures have increased by an average of 0.08 degrees Celsius per decade. Also, since 1981, the average rate of increase has more than doubled to 0.18 degrees.
Exposure to high temperatures can cause heat stress conditions such as heatstroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps: The Climate Coalition 2021 Health Report states that around 12 million people in the UK are vulnerable to summer heat waves. Global warming is also facilitating the transmission of vector-borne diseases as the ectotherms that carry them (dependent on external body heat sources) thrive in a warmer climate. For example, the number of people at risk of contracting malaria in South America is projected to increase from 25 million in 2020 to 50 million in 2080.
In addition, increased flood intensity and heavy rainfall increase the risk of waterborne diseases. Floods also cause loss of human life and damage to property, threatening an estimated 1.47 billion people worldwide who are vulnerable to flooding depths of over 0.15 meters.
The cost of the climate-induced health crisis
The World Health Organization estimates that the direct cost of harm to health worldwide will be between $2 to $4 billion per year by 2030, with climate change causing about 250,000 additional deaths per year from diarrhea due to hot weather between 2030 and 2050.

The climate crisis and its impact can severely strain health systems and increase public costs. For example, in Canada, in a low global greenhouse gas emission scenario, the cost of productivity losses due to heat would increase from 3.9 billion to 5.4 billion Canadian dollars (3.3 billion to 4.3 billion US dollars) by mid-century. At the same time, the economic impact of heat-related deaths will increase from 3 billion to 3.9 billion Canadian dollars (from 2.4 billion to 3.3 billion US dollars), and the cost of diseases caused by ground-level ozone pollution will increase. to reach CAD 352 million (US$ 283 million).

Flooding increases the risk of waterborne illness as well as loss of human life and property damage © Spencer Platt/Getty Images
In Europe, in the IPCC’s A1B scenario, where a balance is achieved between all energy sources, the cost of additional deaths from climate change by the end of the century is expected to reach around 12 billion euros (US$14.2 billion) per year. In the context of “a future world in which there will be very rapid economic growth and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies”.

Overall, only 20 countries emit more than 80 percent of all current greenhouse gas emissions. If they decarbonize their economies, energies, food and transport systems, this will not only contribute to mitigating the climate crisis, but will also improve global health and well-being.
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