Climate change is the single biggest health threat to humanity, and health professionals worldwide are already vocal about the health harms caused by this unfolding crisis.
Impact of climate change on health
Clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter are some components that determine our social and environmental health. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation) are estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030. Over 930 million people - around 12% of the world’s population - spend at least 10% of their household budget to pay for health care. Every year 100 million people are pushed into poverty due to uninsured health coverage and climate change is worsening this trend.
Climate change is impacting health in various ways. It includes deaths or illnesses resulting from extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms, and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues. Climate change is also affecting social determinants of good health such as livelihoods, equality, and access to health care and social support structures. No class of people is untouched by this, be it women, children, poor communities, migrants or displaced persons, older populations, and those with underlying health conditions.
Vulnerability - Routes
- Extreme weather events
- Heat stress
- Air quality
- Water quality and quantity
- Food security and safety
- Vector distribution and ecology
Climate-sensitive health risks
Injury and mortality from extreme weather events
Waterborne diseases and other water-related health impacts
Malnutrition and food-borne diseases
Mental and psychosocial health
This human-induced warming has led to increased morbidity and mortality rates. While no one is safe from the risk of climate change, people who are at higher risk of getting harmed are the people who least contribute to its causes – people of low-income or underdeveloped countries and communities.
What to do?
Countries with weak health infrastructure, majorly developing nations will be least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond. Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food, and energy-use choices can result in improved health, particularly through reduced air pollution.