Climate change has been found amidst its numerous and plague-like challenges to be impacting negatively on human health. This impact is in some cases direct and others discrete as has been observed by the 2022 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change. The published report reveals that, human health is at the mercy of fossil fuels; the major culprit in Climate Change, mankind’s bane.
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“Published annually, the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration, dedicated to monitoring the evolving health profile of climate change, and providing an independent assessment of the delivery of commitments made by governments worldwide under the Paris Agreement. “ – https://www.thelancet.com/countdown-health-climate
The report noted that:
“Because of the rapidly increasing temperatures, vulnerable populations (adults older than 65 years, and children younger than one year of age) were exposed to 3·7 billion more heatwave days in 2021 than annually in 1986–2005, and heat-related deaths increased by 68% between 2000–04 and 2017–21, a death toll that was significantly exacerbated by the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Simultaneously, the changing climate is affecting the spread of infectious diseases, putting populations at higher risk of emerging diseases and co-epidemics.
Coastal waters are becoming more suitable for the transmission of Vibrio pathogens; the number of months suitable for malaria transmission increased by 31·3% in the highland areas of the Americas and 13·8% in the highland areas of Africa from 1951–60 to 2012–21, and the likelihood of dengue transmission rose by 12% in the same period. The coexistence of dengue outbreaks with the COVID-19 pandemic led to aggravated pressure on health systems, misdiagnosis, and difficulties in management of both diseases in many regions of South America, Asia, and Africa.”
In sightings by CER at https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-63386814:
“UN Secretary General António Guterres responded that global leaders must match action to the size of the problem”
He further added that:
“The world is watching G20 countries, which produce 80% of global greenhouse emissions. They must step up efforts to slash emissions and lead the way by investing more in renewable energy.”
Some key findings of the report were as follows:
*” Climate change is undermining every dimension of global health monitored, increasing the fragility of the global systems that health depends on, and increasing the vulnerability of populations to the coexisting geopolitical, energy, and cost-of-living crises.
*Climate change is increasingly undermining global food security, exacerbating the effects of the COVID-19, geopolitical, energy, and cost-of-living crises. New analysis of 103 countries shows that days of extreme heat, increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change, accounted for an estimated 98 million more people reporting moderate to severe food insecurity in 2020 than the average in 1981–2010.
*Well-prepared health systems are essential to protect populations from the health impacts of climate change. However, global health systems have been drastically weakened by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the funds available for climate action decreased in 239 (30%) of 798 cities with health systems increasingly being affected by extreme weather events and supply chain disruptions too.
*Insufficient climate change adaptation efforts have left health systems vulnerable to climate change-related health hazards. Only 48 of 95 countries have assessed their climate change adaptation needs and only 63% of countries reported high to very high implementation status for health emergency management in 2021. Increasing adaptation to climate change has the potential to simultaneously improve the capacity of health systems to manage both future infectious disease outbreaks and other health emergencies.
*Mitigation of the energy sector is crucial to keep the rise in global mean surface temperatures within the 1·5°C target set in the Paris Agreement. However, the energy sector is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Its carbon intensity decreased by less than 1% since the year the UNFCCC was signed, and a simultaneous increase in energy demand of 59% has increased total energy sector emissions to record high levels in 2021. Now, as countries seek alternatives to Russian fossil fuels, many are backsliding to coal, and shifts in global energy supplies risk a net increase in fossil fuel production and consumption.
*The slow adoption of renewable energies, which contribute to only 2.2% of total global energy supply means households remain vulnerable to highly volatile international fossil fuel markets, and millions lack access to reliable, clean sources of fuel. Traditional biomass accounts for 31% of the energy consumed in the domestic sector globally, and for 96% of that in low HDI countries. New analysis shows that the air in people’s homes in 62 countries analysed exceeded WHO guidelines for safe concentrations of small particulate air pollution (PM2·5) in 2020, by 30-fold on average. The current energy and cost-of-living crises, now threatens to worsen energy poverty.”
In conclusion however, it has become increasingly evident that, climate change’s impact cuts across so many spheres. This is a notion that is supported by the plethora of research material/reports being published in recent times and days.
Governments and citizens alike need to embrace policies/ acts that are geared towards sustainability swiftly, if the world is to arrest the ongoing crisis moving forward. Acts in kind would ensure that, the world nips in the bud a potentially worsened outcome in juxtaposition with what it faces now.