Increasing food insecurity, increased disease transmission, increasingly high mortality rates… The Lancet Countdown measured the harmful consequences of global warming on human health.
- “Health risks linked to climate change are increasing in all monitored dimensions,” state the authors of the 2023 Lancet Countdown report.
- Even with a temperature rise limited to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, “heat-related deaths are expected to increase by 370%”.
- Experts believe that “climate action centered on health” must be carried out quickly.
THE 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown, bringing together the work of 114 experts from 52 countries and United Nations (UN) agencies, is particularly worrying. “Health risks linked to climate change are increasing in all monitored dimensions”, state the authors.
An increase in mortality worldwide due to heat
The indicators are in the red. Experts found that heat-related deaths among people over 65 rose by 85% between 2000 and 2004, or “more than twice the increase expected if temperatures had not changed”, they emphasize.
“But new projections show this could be just a taste of an increasingly dangerous future”, they specify. And for good reason, their work shows that even with a rise in temperatures limited to + 2°C compared to the pre-industrial level, “heat-related deaths expected to increase by 370%”. This means that by 2050, the number of annual deaths linked to higher temperatures would increase by 4.7 times.
“It has never been more vital to act to combat our greenhouse gas emissions”
“Air pollution from fuel caused 1.9 million deaths in 2020 alone”, criticize the authors of the report before adding: “deaths we could have avoided by switching to clean, renewable energy”. However, things do not seem to be getting better, despite the Climate Agreement reached in 2015: “The strategies of the world’s 20 largest oil and gas companies from the start of 2023 will result in emissions exceeding the levels in line with the Paris Agreement targets by 173% by 2040… compared to 112% in 2022.”
The report shows in particular that 66% of households in middle-income countries and 92% of those in the poorest countries still rely on biomass combustion to meet their energy needs, “which leads to incredibly high levels of household air pollution”. This indoor air pollution caused 140 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022, in the 62 countries studied.
Extreme droughts threaten food security
Since the 1950s, the area of land affected by extreme drought has increased by 29%. “This threatens our water security, our food security and obviously sanitation networks, with a major impact on the health of populations, particularly in areas such as the Horn of Africa.”, said Marina Romanello, executive director of the Lancet Countdown and researcher at University College London, presenting the report to the press on November 9. With +2°C in 2050, there would be 525 million additional people affected by food insecurity in the world.
Dengue, Vibrio… diseases put “a record number of people at risk”
Changing weather conditions also accelerate the spread of sometimes fatal infectious diseases.
Compared to the period 1981-2010, “the potential for transmission of dengue by Aedes aegypti and albopictus [“moustique tigre”, ndlr]increased by 28.6% and 27.7% respectively” in 2022. Dengue or “tropical flu” is a viral disease transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. If in most cases, “it is only accompanied by benign manifestations, there are more severe forms, which can lead to death”, specifies the WHO.
The work also shows that currently, due to ocean warming, 12.7% more coastlines are suitable for Vibrio transmission compared to the period 1982-2010, “putting a record 1.4 billion people at risk”. This bacteria causes vibriosis, a mild to moderate illness that can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or even headaches. details the MSD Manual. In the most serious cases, it can lead to sepsis, with a very high risk of mortality. This bacteria can be contracted by eating raw or undercooked seafood, or when an open wound is exposed to contaminated water.
We must carry out “climate action centered on health”
“Climate action focused on health is essential today and could have immediate beneficial effects on health”, says the group of experts. “The ambitions of the Paris Agreement are still achievable and a prosperous future is possible”, temper the experts, provided that “immediate steps to move away from fossil fuels and tackle our emissions” are taken, “to ensure that a livable future remains within reach”.
On this subject, the next climate conference organized by the United Nations will be held from November 30 to December 12, 2023. But this 28th COP has reason to be skeptical about its ambition since it will be held in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, a city well known for its environmental follies (ski resort in the middle of the desert, air-conditioned stadiums, gigantic shopping centers, etc.). Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, who will chair the event, is also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the leading oil groups in the world.