Your health is at risk from climate change. Plans to increase economies could make things worse
Zoomen this image to toggle caption Matt Rourke/AP Matt Rourke/AP
Although it may seem obvious, heat kills. Wildfires can cause havoc. Flooding drowns.
However, the subtle health effects of a rapidly heating world can have a profound impact on your health. Heat can cause violence and disrupt sleep. The effects of wildfire smoke on the lungs can cause respiratory problems that can be felt thousands of miles away. Flooding can lead to suicide rates and mental health issues. Warmer winters increase the number of tick- and mosquito-carrying diseases.
The Lancet has released a new report that shows climate change is affecting human health in every way imaginable. World leaders are not taking advantage of this opportunity.
Worldwide, trillions of dollars have been spent to aid economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, less than one fifth of those dollars will be expected to reduce climate-warming greenhouse gases emissions. Marina Romanello, who is the principal author of the annual report, stated that the global impact of these recovery plans will likely be negative for the climate.
She says, "We are recovering in a way which is putting our health at danger."
Extreme weather caused by climate change is causing mass deaths across the U.S.A. and all over the globe
Already, climate change has an immediate impact on hundreds of millions of people all over the globe.
Flooding is worsening; many people were left stranded in their homes, cars, and subways after recent storms. Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense. In the United States alone, 22 climate-related catastrophes caused over a billion dollars of damage last year.
This trend was evident throughout the year. This summer, hundreds died in a record-breaking heatwave in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say that this would not have been possible without climate change. The Lancet's Countdown report showed that people 65 and older experienced 3 billion more days of heat-related deaths than the baseline 16 years ago.
"Unfortunately, this year was the first where I could confidently say that I and my patient very clearly experienced climate change," said Jeremy Hess, a doctor at the University of Washington and professor of occupational and environmental health sciences. I saw paramedics with burns to their knees while kneeling on hot pavement to treat patients suffering from acute stroke. And, of course, too many patients died as a direct result of heat exposure.
More than 200 medical journals published an unprecedented joint statement earlier this year calling climate change "the greatest threat" to global public healthcare and urging world leaders to do more to stop it.
To "ensure a better future", urgent action is required
In Glasgow, Scotland, this month, leaders from around the world, as well as climate groups and financiers, will gather to discuss a way forward to a more sustainable future. John Kerry, the Biden administration's climate ambassador, calls the summit the "last best hope for the planet to get its act together" despite the fact that U.S. efforts are failing to reduce climate change in a divided Congress.
If climate-warming greenhouse gases emissions are not drastically reduced, the planet will likely heat up to a point that large areas of it become uninhabitable. Cities could be overtaken by seas and natural disasters would become commonplace.
Global temperatures should not rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is the goal. The average temperature in the world has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times.
Lancet Countdown's authors warn that there is no safe global temperature increase from a health perspective. They also note that people of color, low-income individuals and the elderly are at greatest risk.
They call for urgent investments in adaptation and research to safeguard these populations. To "ensure a better future for all", actions must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly.