FFaced with one of the greatest threats to the health of humanity, the imperative objective of urgently implementing measures to combat climate change remains unrealized. Climate change is real and happening, and its effects are being felt around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in four deaths – a colossal figure – can be attributed to preventable environmental causes, and that climate change is exacerbating these risks. Climate change poses a multitude of complex health challenges, from extreme weather events to the spread of infectious diseases to the exacerbation of chronic diseases.
We cannot prevent them with a vaccine or treat them with an antibiotic. But we know we can mitigate its effects. Reducing greenhouse emissions across all sectors is essential to limit climate change and ensure that the 1.5°C target remains achievable. To do this, we must decarbonize our energy systems and reduce our emissions by at least 43% over the next seven years.
There is a link between health and climate change
By 2030, if we do not act, climate change will soon lead to the overwhelm of health systems around the world. Extreme weather events – such as droughts, floods and heatwaves – will increase in frequency and severity as the planet warms. For example, floods in Pakistan in 2022 affected a total of 33 million people, including eight million who were displaced.
We know the worst is yet to come. The World Bank estimates that unless we take urgent, bold action, climate change will displace an estimated 216 million people by 2050. Climate change puts lives and livelihoods at risk as global food systems struggle to feed a growing world and water sources are compromised. They also cause an increase in infectious diseases such as dengue and cholera, which endanger millions of people.
Measures to reduce greenhouse emissions can have major health benefits, including reducing air pollution, which kills seven million people each year. The link between health and climate change is beyond doubt. The international community must now accelerate the energy transition away from fossil fuels while building resilience.
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