Heat stress, an early and severe effect of climate change, is commonplace and we, and the health systems we rely on, are ill equipped to cope.
In 2017, 157 million vulnerable people were exposed to heatwaves globally, and 153 billion hours of labour were lost due to heat exposure. While it might not directly kill, heat stress can lead to more serious diseases such as heart attack or stroke. That's an increase of more than 62 billion hours since 2000. So is our economy! Kiesewetter and the team found that coal alone accounts for 16% of pollution-related premature deaths, around 460,000, which they state makes phasing out coal-use a "crucial no-regret intervention for public health".
"The attribution shows that unfortunately an approach targeting a single sector or fuel won't solve the problem - air pollution is a multi-faceted issue that needs integrated strategies cutting across many sectors, which will differ from country to country". So, global coal consumption has fallen since 2013.
Small changes in temperature and rainfall can boost transmission of dengue fever and other infectious diseases that are spread through water and mosquitoes. The Countdown reports that suitability for the transmission of dengue fever from both of these mosquitoes has been increasing in step with recent warming, and is now nearly 10% higher than in the 1950s, with the report's authors sending a warning to health authorities in Brazil and Australia. In addition, these changes were concentrated in already vulnerable areas in India, southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.
The increased risk and severity of devastating heavy rainfall, flooding, droughts and wildfires is starting to affect peoples' access to food, with the world's poorest being hardest hit.
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And in 2017 alone, due to extreme weather events, the United States suffered $326 billion in economic losses, which is almost triple the same type of economic losses in 2016. Already 30 countries have seen downward trends in agricultural yields, reversing a decades-long trend of improvement.
A newly released report highlights that climate change poses an unacceptably high level of risk for the health of populations around the world. "We can not sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer". If left unabated climate change will overwhelm even the strongest of systems, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical.
The impacts, the authors on India policy brief note, vary with different sectors with the agriculture being most vulnerable as compared to the industrial and services sector. These transformations, in turn, offer ways to help tackle the root causes of the world's greatest public health challenges.
"The Lancet Countdown report provides a stark reminder of the consequences for people's health if we continue to procrastinate on climate change", said Jeni Miller, the group's executive director, in a statement.
The recent Special Report on Global Warming by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlines the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial era, rather than the two degrees which is the main target of the Paris Agreement.