Rising temperatures as a result of climate change are already harming human health, according to a new report. City-dwellers and the elderly — especially those in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean — are most at risk from heat-related death and disease as climate change takes hold, the study says.
Lancet Countdown, an international project tracking the relationship between public health and climate change, says extreme heat also threatens to “overwhelm” hospitals unless more is spent on adapting health systems. “Climate change threatens to undermine the last 50 years of gains in public health,” said Dr Nick Watts, the programme’s director. We are starting to see the impact already. Some 157m more people were exposed to heatwaves in 2017, compared with 1990, the report notes. The economic effects are no less severe. Some 153bn labour hours were lost to heat-related causes last year while the total hit to the world economy was $327bn — almost triple the losses of 2016.
Only 1 per cent of losses in low-income countries are covered by insurance. Climate change is also exacerbating problems of air pollution, causing agricultural yields to decline and facilitating the spread of vector-borne diseases such as Dengue. The report also aims to help shift the perception of climate change from an environmental concern to a public health danger.
“This is no longer about a polar bear a long way away, but a child with asthma standing next to you,” said Mr Watts. Here are five charts that explain the effects of climate change on our health: Heatwaves, fires and drought are just some of the more obvious results of climate change. Other effects include increased air pollution, impacts on mental health and the creation of more suitable environments for disease-carrying mosquitoes. gues Get the print edition