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Climate change is already here and heat waves have the biggest impact



Older people in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean are the most vulnerable because of the aging process and the urban populations living there.

The latest report estimates that 42% of people over 65 in Europe and 43% in the eastern Mediterranean are already vulnerable to heat exposure; 38% of this group is vulnerable in Africa and 34% in Asia.

The report identified current changes that impact public health, including lower productivity, lower yields, and the spread of diseases such as dengue and cholera, researchers at 27 global institutions, including researchers, said. universities and research centers, and the United Nations that conducted this study.

The current changes in heatwaves and manpower capability "are rapidly preventing the overwhelming and overwhelming impact on public health expected if the temperature continues to rise," Hilary said. Graham, professor of health sciences. York University in the United Kingdom, who participated in the report.

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In 2017, 157 million vulnerable people were exposed to heatwaves worldwide and 153 billion hours of work were lost due to heat exposure.

In the United States, heat waves have multiplied and lasted, as have vector-borne diseases. Cases of mosquito-borne diseases, ticks and fleas, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to the United States. Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.

Dr. Nick Watts, Executive Director of The Lancet Countdown, pointed out that this is "not something happening in 2050, but something we are already seeing today."

"High and low income countries are negatively affected," said Elizabeth Robinson, professor of environmental economics at the University of Reading, involved in the report. It manifests itself simply in different ways, she added.

The second in a series, the first of which was published last year, analyzes 41 indicators to determine the link between climate change and health in five areas: climate change impacts, resilience to health, and measures. mitigation, financing and public engagement.

Robinson explained that there is "a lot of variability from year to year", but that "the trend seems to be on the rise", indicating even more heat waves in the future. Similarly, the number of vulnerable people "increases over time".

Some progress but far from sufficient

Some promising trends, such as an increase in renewable energy, have seen jobs in this sector increase by 5.7% between 2016 and 2017, according to the report. But investment in renewable energy "still does not look like it should be if we want to reach 1.5 degrees" – a commitment made during the Paris Climate Agreement aiming to limit the rise in global average temperature to 1.5 ° C since the early 2000s. The levels of the industrial revolution, said Paul Ekins, professor of resource policy and environment at the University College London, involved in the report.

Some positive trends have also been identified in the form of phasing out coal and cleaner and healthier transport methods. However, to achieve the goals, the use of coal must account for 20% of 2010 utilization levels by 2010, the report says.

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Dr. Renee Salas, MD Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, the author of the American section of the Lancet report, said that he was conveying a message of hope, while action was being taken, but she stressed that "climate change is currently hurting health from this country". This follows the results of the fourth climate assessment report released by the White House on Friday.
This year has been a record summer in many parts of the world, with temperatures much higher than most people are used to. Watts highlighted a recent study suggesting that 2018 heat waves in Europe were twice as likely as a result of climate change. "It is difficult to assign an attribution to each event, but it is clear that these kinds of events are an example of what might happen if we do not react quickly to climate change," he said. he declared.

The research revealed that the global population was on average exposed to a temperature increase of 0.8 ° C between 1986 and 2017. The change in the temperature of the planet's surface for this period was 0.3 ° C This shows that "people are aging, growing and migrating in the areas most affected by climate change," said Watts.

Salas said: "We must take strong action to combat climate change today so that by the end of the century we have saved thousands of lives each year, as well as hundreds of thousands of lives every year. billions of dollars in public health costs. "

Spread of diseases and deaths

Small changes in temperature and precipitation will also contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, according to the report.

For example, the the ability to spread dengue fever has increased 7.8% since the 1950s.

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The seasonal capacity of the Aedes mosquito – the main species to spread Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya – and its ability to spread has become longer and stronger, the report says.

According to the report, the year 2016 was the one that recorded the highest number of dengue transmissions ever recorded and the spread is expected to increase in line with greenhouse gas emissions.

Kristie Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington, also involved in the report, said the geographic spread of the mosquito that could transmit dengue, Zika and chikunguya had "increased dramatically with warmer temperatures." high ". She added that researchers did not see the impacts individually but insisted on the many effects of climate change.

The rates of cholera bacteria in the world are also worrying. An increasing trend toward increasing fitness for Vibrio, the bacterium that can cause cholera and some other diseases, has been observed worldwide. The United States experienced a 27% increase in coastal areas that were susceptible to Vibrio infections between the 1980s and 2010s.

We "can not ignore the challenges we face," said Gina McCarthy, director of the Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health, which does not not been involved in the report. She cited the California wildfires and the increase of vector-borne diseases.

Death due to pollution

According to the researchers, a "lack of progress" in reducing emissions continues to endanger people's lives and public health systems.

Europe was the region with the most premature deaths due to ambient air pollution in the form of PM2.5 – particles of a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers – in 2015, followed by Western Pacific and South-East Asia, the report says.
According to the World Health Organization, particles can be deposited in the airways and cause problems such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and cancers, leading to premature death.
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Paul Ekins, A resource and environmental policy professor from University College London who was involved in the report, stressed that "we think that once again, in Europe, we are doing better than other areas that should be moved. "

Reduced productivity

Global warming cost the world 153 billion hours of work last year, the report found.

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In China alone, 21 billion hours of work were lost under the effect of extreme heat in 2017, accounting for 1.4% of the country's labor force. Robinson said rising temperatures had "a direct impact on work".

The majority of lost working hours occurred in more vulnerable regions such as India, South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

After decades of overall improvement in food security, the report shows that agricultural yields are down in 30 countries, including Cuba, the United Arab Emirates and Luxembourg.

According to a 2011 study published in Nature International Journal of Science, in some countries, the difference between the actual yield obtained and the maximum yield shows that the negative impacts of climate change cancel out any technological improvement.

Are we able to cope?

Watts warned that, according to the report, more than half – 51% – of the 478 cities in the world surveyed said their public health infrastructure would be seriously compromised by climate change, overburdened services with new threats to health or extreme weather events directly threatening health services..

It means "a systemic failure," Watts said, similar to the closing of a hospital.

Global spending on climate adaptation for health is 4.8%, which is insufficient to meet the Paris climate agreement, the researchers said.

According to the report, Europe and South-East Asia are the countries that spend the most, with low-income countries not funding enough to support themselves.

The report noted the stakes for faster progress, said Ekins.

He believes the results represent "worse prospects, because we are not moving fast enough by 2 degrees", as agreed at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, "and we are certainly not going fast enough for 1.5 "degrees.

Watts pointed out that the Lancet Countdown report could not say in which direction the world was headed, but that "whatever the road traveled, it ends up shaping the health profile of the countries of the next century".


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