Study reveals: Climate change becomes a health hazard for humans

Health threats from climate change are on the rise. A large research consortium is warning against this in the hard-hitting report “The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change", republished and quoted by many international newspapers these days. According to a study climate change is threatening the health of more and more people: In 2017, 18 million more people at risk were exposed to heat waves than in 2016.

According to the authors, many people are particularly exposed to climate change because temperatures in more densely populated regions rise particularly sharply: by 0.8 degrees Celsius between 1986 and 2017. In the same period, the global average temperature rose by 0.3 degrees Celsius. Also, everyone on Earth was exposed to an additional 1.4 days of heatwave between 2000 and 2017 compared with the period 1986-2005, authors said. As a conclusion, the researchers expect more tropical diseases to spread. In 2016 the global capacity for the transmission of dengue fever by mosquitoes was the highest on record.

460,000 deaths every year caused by air pollution

Heat is often accompanied by urban air pollution. Pollution indicates harmful effects on people’s health, the environment, and the planet, which has been neglected by Governments and the international development agenda. But, pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today. 97 percent of the cities surveyed in low and middle-income countries do not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines. 460,000 people die each year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system.

Economical loss due to climate change

Global warming also means that people work less due to heat: In 2017, that were 153 billion working hours worldwide, 62 billion more than in 2000. In addition, there were further economic losses: last year, 712 extreme weather events led to a global loss of around 288 million euros, almost three times more than 2016, The Lancet reports.

Hilary Graham of the University of York, England is the lead researcher in this project and is quoted: "Present-day changes in heatwaves and labour capacity provide early warning of the compounded and overwhelming impact on public health that is expected if temperatures continue to rise." And she said furthermore: “Trends in the impacts of climate change, exposures and vulnerabilities show unacceptably high risk for health now and in the future. The lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens lives and health systems and must be addressed to avoid disruption to core public health infrastructure and overwhelming health services."

Positive: More and more renewables worldwide

But there are also rays of hope, the authors write. Global coal consumption has fallen since 2013. The capacity of the power plants built in 2017 is divided into 157 gigawatts which come from renewable energies and 70 gigawatts from fossil fuels.

Also, Greentechmedia reports, that it is now cheaper to build new renewable generation than to run 35 percent of coal plants worldwide. By 2030, that percentage increases even more, with renewables beating out 96 percent of today’s existing and planned coal-fired power station. Carbon Tracker claims that 42 per cent of global coal capacity is running at a loss which would reach 72 per cent by 2040.