Story at a glance

  • A study published in The Lancet reviews the adverse effects of climate change on human mortality.
  • Authors called for more serious political engagement.

A new report outlines a more rapidly changing — and deteriorating — climate crisis situation that will need to be addressed in the next “pivotal” five years.

Published in The Lancet, the report outlines the consensus among a group of scientists, engineers, geographers and other experts as to how the world needs to recommit to bringing climate change to a halt. 

The authors identify several indicators that suggest change in several environmental systems due to climate change, including reduced global crop yields that threaten food security, increases in regional viruses like malaria and Dengue fever, as well as populations threatened by rising sea levels. 


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Although the evidence suggests “clear and escalating signs” of devastation linked to climate change, the report notes that the world’s response has been “muted,” despite international accords like the Paris Agreement to motivate nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The report then focuses on some gains made in certain sectors, with most of the progress being made in the health and medical sector. Health professionals, including doctors and nurses, have stepped into a larger role in the effects climate change has on human health and communicating related needs. 

“Just like in my emergency department, I can’t take one health problem and place it in isolation because one insult on the body creates new problems and worsens old ones,” Renee Salas, lead author of the U.S. Lancet Countdown Policy Brief, stated. “We must take an integrated approach when tackling these challenges. Climate action is the prescription we need for better health and equity as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Improvements like national health systems adapting to meteorological forecasts in anticipating public health needs was recorded in 86 countries, and global spending in health adaptation to climate change rose to account for roughly $18.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

Global medical data reveal that heatwave exposure has increased since data from 1986 across a bevy of different countries, including China, the U.S. and India. 

More instances of exposure to extreme heat takes a toll on elderly people in particular, with scientists estimating that the average heat-related mortality per year in people older than 65 years of age has risen by 53.7 percent from the early 2000s up to 2018. 

Increases in serious weather-related disasters was also noted, and yields of staple foods, namely maize, winter wheat, soybean and rice, have all showcased steady declines. 

Climate change does not spare the global economy either, as the weather changes for the worse. The report noted that higher temperatures experienced in low and lower-middle income countries track with reductions in labor capacity that could be attributed to heat, especially in the agriculture sector. 

To tackle the myriad institutions climate change adversely effects, the report concludes by emphasizing how crucial political and public engagement is to reduce emissions. 

“The public health and financial effects of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come, and efforts to protect and rebuild local communities and national economies will need to be robust and sustained,” the report concluded. “The window of opportunity is narrow, and, if the response to COVID-19 is not fully and directly aligned with national climate change strategies, the world will be unable to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, damaging health and health systems today, and in the future.”


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Published on Dec 03, 2020