A report released on Wednesday by the Lancet Countdown calls climate change "the greatest global threat to 21st century health" and warns that otherwise disease, poor air quality and high levels of air pollution. food insecurity will threaten millions of people.
The report, written by a team of international researchers, focuses on several climate-related impacts, including extreme heat and its effects on labor productivity and the spread of disease. In 2017, 153 billion hours of work were lost due to heat, an increase of more than 62 billion hours since 2000. This is linked to an increase in exposure to heat waves and Extreme weather such as hurricanes and fires that have already caused thousands of climate refugees and should create millions more.
One of the authors of this report, notes one of the authors, is American. In a press conference on Tuesday, Renee Salas, a physician in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the Lancet Countdown US Brief, described a recent experience close to home. "One of my patients, who came from Puerto Rico, came with a bag of baggage, a bag of medicine that she had not taken for days. She was really a climate refugee who was in my emergency department, "said Salas. "I can not think of a population more at risk of health effects than a displaced person."
Even small changes in temperature and precipitation can lead to significant changes in the transmission of vector-borne diseases and water-borne diseases, the report notes. In 2016, the transmission capacity of insect-transmitted bacteria and viruses, including those that cause dengue fever, cholera and malaria, has increased significantly. (This finding was echoed in last week's climate assessment by the federal government that climate change would alter the geographic range and distribution of insects and disease-causing insects in the United States.)
At the same time, the world's ability to produce food also seems threatened. A review of crop yields shows declines in all regions; 30 countries have produced less food in recent years.
The countdown report of the Lancet indicates reasons for hope. In 2017, more electric vehicles were on the road than ever before, and investments in renewable energy have increased significantly, while coal consumption continues to decline. China is responsible for many of these changes. It claims more than 40% of all electric cars sold and is leading in the installation of renewable energy sources.
Yet spending on adaptation to climate change remains well below the amount set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, which President Donald Trump has announced, but that the United States does not want to see it. will not accept. And only 3.8% of these expenditures are devoted to human health. Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, currently Director of the Center for Climate, Global Health and Environment at Harvard University, believes it is essential to recognize the effects of the climate change on health. She describes her visit to California in the middle of a forest fire that spread smoke throughout the state. "It was so obvious to see masked people literally walking the streets of San Francisco and downtown Palo Alto," says McCarthy. "It did not look like the United States of America."
According to the report, fine particulate matter – which McCarthy saw wearing masks designed to filter – caused nearly 3 million premature deaths in 2015. Pollution has actually worsened in nearly three quarters of the world's cities. world since 2010. Road fuel consumption increased by 2% between 2013 and 2015, and cycling, the main alternative to city driving, accounted for less than 10% of daily trips.
The report, which is aimed at health professionals, says they need to do more to educate the public about climate change. The authors of this report write that the consequences of inaction can not be overestimated. As McCarthy notes, "I do not think people are questioning a diagnosis of their doctor simply because the president decides he might not believe in something. It's not a belief system. This concerns science and facts.