Climate change is biggest health threat to humanity: WHO

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New Delhi:Climate change is the single greatest health threat that humanity has ever faced, and these threats are not caused by nature, but rather by humans for their own selfish reasons in the name of progress.

Our health, as we all know, is inextricably related to the environment in which we live. Our climate, on the other hand, is changing, with substantial implications for our health, well-being, and safety. Human activity is responsible for the majority of recent climatic changes.

Climate change will have far-reaching and disastrous implications for people all around the world if it is not addressed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently concluded that the world must limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic health effects and prevent millions of climate change-related deaths.

Past emissions have already made a certain level of global temperature rise and other changes to the climate inevitable. Global heating of even 1.5 °C is not considered safe; however, every additional tenth of a degree of warming will take a serious toll on people’s lives and health.

The climate crisis threatens to undo the last fifty years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction and to further widen existing health inequalities between and within populations.

It severely jeopardises the realisation of universal health coverage (UHC) in various ways, including by compounding the existing burden of disease and by exacerbating existing barriers to accessing health services, often at the times when they are most needed.

According to the report, over 930 million people—around 12 percent of the world’s population—spend at least 10 percent of their household budget on paying for health care.

With the poorest people largely uninsured, health shocks and stresses already push around 100 million people into poverty every year, with the impacts of climate change worsening this trend, the report said.

In the short-to medium-term, the health impacts of climate change will be determined mainly by the vulnerability of populations, their resilience to the current rate of climate change, and the extent and pace of adaptation.

In the longer term, the effects will increasingly depend on the extent to which transformational action is taken now to reduce emissions and avoid the breaching of dangerous temperature thresholds and potential irreversible tipping points.

Climate change is impacting human lives and health in a variety of ways. It threatens the essential ingredients of good health—clean air, safe drinking water, a nutritious food supply, and safe shelter—and has the potential to undermine decades of progress in global health.

According to the WHO, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress alone.

“The direct damage cost to health is estimated to be between USD 4–6 billion per year by 2030,” it said. The WHO also estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes.

This includes the climate crisis, which is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.

On the eve of World Health Day, they released a shocking report, noting that 99 per cent breathe unhealthy air, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels.

The climate crisis is a health crisis: the same unsustainable choices that are killing our planet are killing people,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We need transformative solutions to wean the world off its addiction to fossil fuels, to reimagine economies and societies focused on well-being, and to safeguard the health of the planet on which human health depends,” Tedros underscored.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted fault lines of inequity across the world, underlining the urgency of creating sustainable and healthy societies that do not breach ecological limits.

“We need to ensure that all people have access to lifesaving and life-enhancing tools, systems, policies, and environments” the agency said.

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