Heat-related deaths increased by 68 per cent between 2000-2004 and 2017-2021, while vulnerable populations were exposed to 3.7 billion more heatwave days last year than annually in 1986-2005, according to a Lancet report.
The study that focused on health effects of climate change amid Covid pandemic, global energy and cost-of-living crisis due to Russia-Ukraine war revealed that vulnerable populations, the elderly and children less than a year old, were exposed to 3.7 billion more heatwave days in 2021.
While floods in Australia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Pakistan and other countries have caused thousands of deaths, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused billions of dollars in economic losses, wildfires have caused devastation in countries like Greece, Algeria, Italy, and Spain, and record temperatures have been recorded in many countries, the report said.
Extreme weather events burdened people in low human development index (HDI) countries, in which almost none of the losses were incurred, it added. Urgent action is needed to strengthen health system resilience to prevent a rapidly escalating loss of lives and to prevent suffering in a changing climate.
In 2022, while marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries agreed to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change and its deleterious effects on human health and welfare. However, this has been followed up with little meaningful action.
Fossil fuel dependence not only undermines global health through increased climate change impacts but also affects human health and wellbeing directly, through volatile and unpredictable fossil fuel markets, frail supply chains and geopolitical conflicts, it said.
On the other hand, oil and gas companies, the report said, are registering record profits even as their production strategies continue to undermine people’s lives and wellbeing. The world’s largest oil and gas companies, as of February 2022, have been understood to exceed their share of emissions consistent with 1.5 degrees Celsius of global heating by 37 per cent in 2030 and 103 per cent in 2040, continuing to undermine decarbonisation efforts, it said.
Making things even worse, governments continue to incentivise fossil fuel production and consumption, the report said.
At this critical juncture, the report said, an immediate, health-centered response can still secure a future in which the world population can not only survive but also thrive.