Climate change will be the cause of roughly 250,000 “extra” deaths a year by 2030, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization quantifying the future impacts of the changing climate on human health.
Of this figure, roughly 48,000 will be via diarrhea; 60,000 via malaria; 95,000 via under-nutrition during childhood; and 38,000 via heat exposure (the elderly mostly) — according to the new report.
“Our planet is losing its capacity to sustain human life in good health,” stated Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO). “Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most disturbing report to date, with a strong focus on the consequences for health.”
As the report notes, the general consensus amongst researchers is that the effects of climate change will be “overwhelmingly negative” — with these extreme negatives appearing in full force sometime before the year 2050.
Dr Chan continued: “Debates about climate change are still not giving sufficient attention to the profound effects that climate variables have on health. Many of the world’s most worrisome diseases have transmission cycles that are profoundly shaped by conditions of heat and humidity and patterns of rainfall. As one important example, malaria parasites and the mosquitoes that transmit them are highly sensitive to climate variability, which has been repeatedly linked to epidemics.”
On the subject of heat-related deaths, it’s worth making note of the European/French heatwave of 2003, which caused at least 14,800 deaths in France over a very short period of time. The total estimated death toll of the event is estimated to be over 70,000.
“Other epidemic-prone diseases, like cholera, dengue, and bacterial meningitis, are likewise highly sensitive to climate variability. All of these diseases have a huge potential for social disruption and make huge logistical demands on response teams.”
When taken together with the other mounting/approaching issues of our time — large-scale migration, diminishing agricultural productivity, resource scarcity — the climate-related spread of tropical diseases is likely to be made even more pronounced.
It’s worth noting that many of the largest epidemics/pandemics of history have been closely associated with the large-scale migrations of people.
A public health “expert” by the name of Tony McMichael was quoted in an article by the Climate Change Institute in Australia, stating: “The symptoms we already see in people beleaguered by bushfire, storms, floods, and drought are the early warming signs. The risks to physical and mental health, as well as community morale, mount with every year we fail to act decisively. Yet, there is still time to avoid much additional human suffering, to realise the health benefits of action, and to restore hope.”
No doubt there. But pressures do seem to be building, and a big storm does seem to be approaching on the horizon.
Image Credit: Climate Change (some rights reserved)