The Lancet, one of the first general medical journals to undergo peer review, has published its yearly assessment of the risks posed by climate change to human health. According to the paper, serious effects of climate change are already present and not just in the distant future.
Every year for the past seven, The Lancet has published the Countdown report, which assesses how far we’ve come toward achieving the objectives outlined in the 2015 Paris agreement as well as the threats that climate change poses to human health and survival. However, recent data indicate that human health is already at the mercy of fossil fuels, contrary to the 2020 report’s warning that climate change might undo beneficial health advancements and trends over the previous 50 years.
Because of our overreliance on fossil fuels, climate change’s severe effects are already being seen. Extreme weather conditions over the past two years have affected every continent and increased the strain on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 epidemic. The report made mention of floods, wildfires, and high-heat events that have caused human displacement, damaged economies, and resulted in thousands of fatalities worldwide.
According to the report, the number of deaths caused by heat rose by 68% between 2000 and 2004 and 2017 and 2021. The study also discovered that because climate change affects the spread of infectious diseases, communities are more at risk for emerging diseases and co-epidemics.
The number of months suitable for malaria transmission increased by 31.3% in the highland areas of the Americas and by 13.8% in the highland areas of Africa from 1951 to 2012, and the likelihood of dengue transmission increased by 12% during the same period, according to a study. Coastal waters are also becoming more conducive to the transmission of Vibrio pathogens.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, other infectious diseases, and severe weather occurrences that cause harm and death, healthcare services are already at capacity.
Global food and water security is deteriorating due to climate change. Crop yields were threatened by maize, winter wheat, and spring wheat’s shortened growth seasons as a result of rising temperatures. According to the study, compared to annual statistics for 1981 to 2010, intense heat may be responsible for 98 million additional people in 103 countries experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity in 2020. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic caused up to 161 million more individuals to face hunger and undernourishment in 2020 than in 2019, according to data.
The globe is on track to warm by 2.7 C by 2100, which is largely exacerbated by the excessive reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil fuel firms are reporting record profits, the study found, despite the fact that global energy demand is rising but not being adequately fulfilled, leaving many healthcare institutions throughout the world without enough electricity to provide patient care. Despite their vows to take climate action, governments, particularly in high-income countries, nonetheless encourage the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
Not everything is yet gone. The analysis identified this period as a turning point, in which health-focused solutions could still contribute to a low-carbon future. The use of fossil fuels must be rapidly phased out, and nations must concentrate on the links between and solutions for climate change and health.
The analysis came to the conclusion that countries’ policies on COVID-19 recovery and energy sovereignty will have significant, and possibly irreversible, effects on health and climate change as a result of governments dealing with multiple crises at once.
Accelerated climate action would, however, result in cascading advantages, including more resilient food, energy, and health systems, as well as increased security and diplomatic autonomy, which would lessen the impact of health shocks. The last chance to ensure a better, safer future for all may lie in placing human health at the heart of a coordinated response to these concomitant crises in the midst of a chaotic world.