The effects of climate change are likely to take a deadly turn by the year 2030, taking a toll on 250,000 lives each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed in its latest report. Malaria, diarrheal diseases, heat stress and malnutrition will be the major culprits, says the study.
As climate changes and the earth becomes warmer the human health gets affected in a number of ways. The geographic range and seasonality of certain infectious diseases and epidemics like cholera and dengue will get altered. It will intensely affect water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted through insects, snails or other cold blooded animals.
‘Rising temperatures and melting ice are said to claim at least 250,000 lives each year by 2030. India which is already a major contributor to the high infectious disease burden will claim 130,000 deaths by 2050, due to climate change.’
Air-pollution causes nearly seven million deaths each year and more than half of these deaths are reported from Indian and China with India's contribution being 1.59 million.
Extreme weather events like heat waves and floods are likely to decrease the production of staple foods in some of the poorest regions of the world creating an imbalance in the food-producing ecosystems. This will increase the prevalence of malnutrition and under-nutrition, which currently cause 3.1 million deaths every year.
WHO estimates that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. India which has a high burden of infectious diseases will contribute significantly to the death toll. In a study conducted by the University of Oxford, published in the international medical journal Lancet
earlier this year, projected 130,000 deaths in the country from climate change in 2050.
According to WHO's assessment, in the next 15 years, heat exposure will cause around 38,000 deaths. Deaths due to diarrhea are projected to reach 48,000, as many as 60,000 due to malaria and 95,000 owing to childhood malnutrition.
Heat waves in Europe in the summer of 2003 was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Recently, both India and Pakistan have been hit by deadly heat waves, killing hundreds of people. The environmental determinants of health like clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter are at stake due to the rising temperatures. The heaviest burden of diseases will fall on children, women, elderly and the poor further widening health inequalities between and within populations, WHO said.
WHO provides a comprehensive programme to protect health from climate risks, by linking health economics assessment and climate change. It has also announced a new working group which will articulate a coherent approach to health economics and climate change. Highlighting the benefits of switching to cleaner energy sources, WHO said it will reduce air pollutants, besides providing desperately needed power for health facilities to mitigate climate change and protect and improve people's health.