Report warns of climate change’s ‘code red’ impact on health

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Drought will damage food production, rising temperatures will fuel the spread of dangerous pathogens such as malaria and cholera and current climate trends indicate “code red” for future health, predicts new report from The Lancet medical journal .

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The Lancet Countdown report, which is published annually, tracks 44 metrics of the health impacts of climate change, including infectious disease transmission and the impact of climate change on food production, as affiliated with more than 40 United Nations groups and academic institutions. Researched by experts.

The report said that during the 6-month period in 2020, 51.6 million people were affected by 84 disasters, including floods, droughts and hurricanes, in countries already battling the coronavirus pandemic.


The report’s authors wrote, “The Lancet Countdown’s 2021 report highlights a world overwhelmed by the ongoing global health crisis that has made little progress to protect its populations from the growing health impacts of climate change as well ”

Climate impacts on health identified in the report include increased droughts that damage food production, more violent natural disasters that burden health care systems, and rising temperatures that encourage the spread of infectious pathogens.

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Climate change contributed to a record-breaking heatwave in the US Pacific Northwest that caused more than 1,000 deaths, the report said.

“Looking at 2021, people over 65 years of age or less than 1 year of age, with people facing social disadvantage, record highs of 40 °C in June in the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States and Canada- Breaks were most affected by temperature, 2021—an event that would have been nearly impossible without human-caused climate change,” the authors wrote.

Dr Jeremy Hayes, professor of global health and emergency medicine at the University of Washington and co-author of the report, said at a media briefing that he saw some of these health effects for the first time.

“I was caring for patients at two of our hospitals in Seattle during the heat wave and unfortunately this was the first year I can say with confidence that my patients and I clearly experienced the effects of climate change. I had seen paramedics who said, “Kneading to care for heat patients has burns on their knees,” Hayes said. And I saw a lot of patients died in ED last year because of heat exposure.”

Climate change is contributing to the spread of disease

According to the report, rising temperatures have resulted in an increase in the number of months where malaria has been transmissible since the 1950s, and an increase in the number of areas suitable for cholera transmission. The “epidemic potential” of viruses, including dengue and Zika, has increased globally.

“Climate change, along with global mobility and urbanization, is a major driver of the increase in the number of dengue virus infections, doubling every decade since 1990,” the report’s authors write.

“Other important emerging or re-emerging arboviruses, transmitted by mosquitoes, are likely to have similar responses to climate change.”

How ‘green recovery’ can help from Covid-19

Hayes said the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic could worsen an already dire situation, especially if it is not a “green recovery”.

“The world has invested tremendous resources in recovery, but has not taken the opportunity to invest those resources in green recovery that is not fueled by fossil fuels. And unfortunately this is a lost opportunity for us. We look forward to a healthier future.” And as of now, and certainly this is a pivotal moment in politics in the United States and globally, as it relates to climate change, we need to seize that opportunity,” Hayes said. said.

WHO says climate crisis 'greatest health threat facing humanity', calls on world leaders to act

Released ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 26th Conference of the Parties, the report highlights the importance of global climate action such as the Paris Agreement on Global Health.

“Neither Covid-19 nor climate change respect national boundaries. Without widespread, accessible vaccination in all countries and societies, Sars-CoV-2 and its new variants will continue to threaten the health of all. Similarly All that is needed to tackle climate change is for countries to deliver an immediate and coordinated response, to support the Covid-19 recovery fund, and to build an appropriate environment for a low-carbon future and climate change adaptation around the world, the report’s authors said. assigned to ensure the transition.

“By directing the trillions of dollars that will be committed to Covid-19 recovery towards the WHO’s prescription for a healthier, greener recovery, the world can meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, protecting natural systems that support well-being. and reduce inequalities. Fewer health impacts and maximum co-benefits of a universal low-carbon transition.”

More than 230 journals warn that 1.5°C of global warming could be 'catastrophic' for health

Dr. Renee Salas, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, contributed to the report, “Every fraction of a degree counts for health inequality and America has an opportunity to take the urgent broad action we need to take to protect health.” ” , told Granthshala.

“Climate change is first and foremost a health crisis that is now unfolding and as an emergency medicine physician I have pledged to protect the health of my patients, and I cannot do this without taking action on climate change. Therefore, improving health and accelerating equity should not only be the reason we act, but should also guide how we respond”

‘We’re gonna make the same mistake again’

Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, Dr. Georges Benjamin, who did not contribute to the report, told the briefing that the pandemic offers a way to better prepare for climate change as a health crisis on a global scale.

“We just spent years preparing and talking about the pandemic, and frankly, we weren’t prepared. We didn’t put in the infrastructure that we really needed to set up. We … In our health and public health systems in a way that sadly turned out to be two years of significant outbreaks that weren’t as bad as it was,” he said.

“The real issue here is that we’re about to make the same mistake again. The same things are going to happen to us because we haven’t really invested in the mitigation and adaptation needed to address climate change.”

An editorial issued with the report referred to research in the past on making societies resilient against climate issues.

“These avenues are: exploiting new opportunities, development of resilient energy systems, trade and use of resources, political and institutional adaptation, and migration and change,” the editorial authors wrote.

“The key message is that the world needs a new era of research that is less focused on forecasting climate change, and on predictions of the social consequences of future warming and how to weather them. Being subject to a climate emergency is not inevitable. Is. ”

Granthshala’s Jen Christensen contributed to this story.


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