The global climate crisis poses a significant threat to public health and the stability of healthcare systems worldwide. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change report, recently released, highlights the factors that affect the well-being of individuals, communities, care, and the public on a global level.
According to the report, there has been a drastic increase in the impact of the global climate crisis on people’s lives. The global population, over 60 years and infants are more vulnerable to heatwaves than they were between 1986 and 2005. They are facing heatwaves twice as severe as earlier.
The rise in global temperature is having a devastating impact on resources, leading to water scarcity, affecting food production, and also causing a rise in malnutrition cases worldwide. According to the report, there were 127 million more people experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity in 122 countries in 2021, compared to the annual numbers seen between 1981 and 2010.
“The path to a sustainable future starts with taking bold and urgent steps: transitioning to renewable energy, reducing emissions across all sectors, and building adaptation and resilience, to name just a few. The upcoming COP28 will be a watershed moment to address health, with the potential for ambitious outcomes that will ensure a healthier and more resilient world,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Environment, Climate Change, and Health.
According to the report, if the global temperature surpasses the threshold of 1.5C and it reaches a 2C warming scenario, 525 million more people will face food insecurity by 2041-60 than what was in the 1995-2014.
The report also highlighted India’s vulnerability to drastic weather and climate changes, like drought and its impact on the people. As per the report, in 2020, India’s energy is still dependent on coal, and only 2% of its energy is generated from renewable sources. Even there is a huge spike in infectious diseases like malaria, and dengue.
In 2020, data across 62 countries, including India, revealed 140 reported deaths per 100,000 due to household air pollution.
The report also highlights how climate change accelerates the spread of life-threatening infectious diseases. For instance, warming seas expand the habitat suitable for Vibrio bacteria, posing risks to over a billion people annually with diarrheal diseases and severe infections.
With the Conference of Parties, COP28, just around the corner, this report serves as an alarm for the world. It emphasises the seriousness of the issue of climate and its direct impact on lives and livelihoods. It stresses the dependency we currently have on fossil fuels and the need to move towards available renewable energy sources. Implementing the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal is critical to prevent severe consequences such as increased malnutrition, disease outbreaks, and respiratory deaths.
Apart from this, the Lancet report also talks about a holistic, health-centred approach to addressing the climate crisis. Prioritising health in climate action can save millions of lives annually, upholding the fundamental human rights to health and a sustainable environment.