Climate change is putting an increasing proportion of the global population at risk of heat-related death and diseases, and causing significant loss of work hours in vulnerable areas like India, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America, according to a study published in The Lancet journal. The rising vulnerability to the heat-related risks of climate change is mirrored by increased exposure to higher temperatures.
Despite a mean global temperature increase of 0.3 degrees Celsius between 1986 and 2017, the average temperature increase people were exposed to was more than double this (0.8 degrees Celsius). With the pace of climate change outweighing the urgency of the response, the report provides cause for concern. However, researchers also note promising trends in key areas for health, including the phase-out of coal, the deployment of healthier, cleaner modes of transport, and health system adaptation.
Present day changes in heat waves and labour capacity provide early warning of the compounded and overwhelming impact on public health that is expected if temperatures continue to rise,” said Hilary Graham from The University of York in UK. “Trends in the impacts of climate change, exposures and vulnerabilities show unacceptably high risk for health now and in the future,” said Graham. “The lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens lives and health systems and must be addressed to avoid disruption to core public health infrastructure and overwhelming health services,” she said.
“Despite delays, some sectors are embarking on a low-carbon transition, which is a promising sign. It is clear that the nature and scale of the response to climate change will be the determining factor in shaping the health of nations for centuries to come,” said Graham. The annual report tracks 41 indicators across five areas: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; finance and economics; and public and political engagement. The indicators include weather-related disasters, food security, clean fuel use, meat consumption, air pollution and the number of scientific research articles about climate and health.