The threat climate change poses to human health is so great that it could wipe out health progress made over the past 50 years, says a report.
“Impact of climate change on global health could be enormous not only through the direct health effects, but also because of reduced social stability if people are forced to move or flee,” said Peter Byass, professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden. The report published in The Lancet medical journal showed that the direct health effects of climate change are linked to increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, especially heatwaves, floods, droughts and storms.
Indirect impacts come from changes in infection patterns, effects of emissions, uncertainty regarding the availability of food.
Health effects can also be linked to people involuntarily forced to leave the affected areas or movements of people planned because of impending changes in living conditions.
But getting to grips with climate change could also present major opportunities for global health, the researchers said.
“Meanwhile, we know that mitigation and adaptation around climate change can have positive health effects, for example both by reducing emissions and improving dietary habits,” Byass said.
“Effective climate action may actually prove to be one of the greatest opportunities to also improve global health that we have ever had,” Byass said.
The report proposes a new independent global action plan ‘Countdown to 2030: Climate Change and Health Action,’ with the formation of an organisation to monitor and report every two years to the United Nations on how links between health status and climate change are affected.