Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between US$ 2-4 billion/year by 2030.
Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the 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.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its latest assessment, has said that by 2030, approximately 2,50,000 more people will die per year due to climate change.
It says most of these deaths deaths will be caused from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
As the earth becomes warmer, the global climate is changing, affecting human health in a number of ways, for instance by altering the geographic range and seasonality of certain infectious diseases, disturbing food-producing ecosystems, and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events.
WHO also says that heaviest burden of diseases due to climate change will fall on children, women, elderly and the poor, further widening health inequalities between and within populations.By the late 21st century, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of drought at regional and global scale. Climate change is also among the greatest health risks of the 21st Century.
Rising temperatures and variable precipitation are likely to decrease the production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions. This will increase the prevalence of malnutrition and undernutrition, which currently cause 3.1 million deaths every year.
Rising temperatures undermine the environmental determinants of health, including clean air and water.
As per WHO’s assessment, heat exposure will cause around 38,000 deaths in the elderly in the next 15 years. Also, deaths due to diarrhoea are projected to reach 48,000, and as many as 60,000 deaths due to malaria and 95,000 due to childhood malnutrition.
WHO provides a comprehensive proggramme to protect health from climate risks, and to ensure that actions to mitigate climate change also protect and improve people’s health.
It says that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. And air pollution, which is largely from the same sources as climate change, claims 7 million lives annually. Recently, both India and Pakistan have been hit by deadly hitwaves, killing hundreds of people.
The European heatwaves in the northern hemisphere summer of 2003was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Visit WHO: Climate Change and Health