Biggest threat to global health is Climate Change, warn doctors
According to a recent report in The Lancet Medical Journal, climate change will bring with it unique and devastating health impacts that risk overwhelming healthcare systems.
Medical officials have warned that hundreds of millions of people have already suffered from rising heat and extreme weather over the last 20 years.
Climate change will increase the frequency and severity of storms, floods and fires, posing a significant health risk.
Climatic disasters do not only cause direct injuries and fatalities but can also disrupt and close hospitals, facilitate disease outbreaks and trigger mental health problems. In addition, wildfires worsen air quality and cause respiratory illness.
The Lancet’s report warned:
"A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air"
In 2017, 157 million more people worldwide experienced heatwaves than in 2000. This hotter weather led to 153 billion hours of lost labour, a 60% increase from 2000.
Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat and often cannot cope as easily as healthy adults.
Rising temperatures have also been linked to a growing range of mosquito borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa’s highlands the zones where malaria carrying mosquitos can survive has grown by 27%.
Warmer weather also threatens farming harvests in all regions of the world and previous research has found that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide makes crops less nutritious.
Kristie Ebi, Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington stressed the urgency and impact of taking action:
"Most mitigation policies are good for health - and they're good for health now"
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Image credit: WHO