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Climate Change Health Impacts: Understanding the Urgent Risks to Human Well-being

Climate Change Health Impacts

WHO: The climate crisis is creating a health crisis

GenevaThe World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization have highlighted the severe impacts of climate change on human health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, newborns, children, adolescents, and the elderly.

Rising global temperatures and the increased frequency of climate-related natural disasters pose significant health risks, including respiratory diseases, cardiovascular issues, cognitive impairments, and premature births. Urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build climate resilience, and implement targeted measures to protect the health of vulnerable groups at all stages of life.

Key Concepts

  • Climate change poses serious health risks to vulnerable populations at all stages of life.
  • Air pollution and climate hazards like wildfires, flooding, and extreme heat have detrimental effects on pregnant women, newborns, children, adolescents, and the elderly.
  • Climate-related natural disasters can lead to physical and mental health consequences, including premature births, respiratory diseases, and cognitive impairments.
  • The World Meteorological Organization reports that 2023 was the hottest year on record, with global temperatures expected to rise significantly in the next five years.
  • Rapid warming could result in an additional 250,000 deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stroke by 2050.
  • Air pollution exacerbates health risks, leading to high blood pressure, low birth weight, premature births, and respiratory diseases.
  • Climate-related natural disasters increase mortality related to respiratory disorders and cardiovascular disease, particularly in vulnerable populations.
  • The World Health Organization urges governments to prioritize climate change as a health issue and take action to protect vulnerable groups.
  • Tailored climate responses are needed for vulnerable populations, including women, infants, children, adolescents, and the elderly.
  • Concrete actions such as implementing flexible working hours, preparing child care and education systems for extreme weather, and educating communities on protective measures are necessary to safeguard health at all stages of life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) this week published a series of articles providing scientific evidence highlighting the harmful impact of climate change on human health at different key stages of the human life cycle.

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“These articles provide important scientific evidence on how the health of pregnant women, newborns, children, adolescents, and the elderly is affected by air pollution and different climate hazards, including wildfires, floods, and extreme heat,” says WHO Maternity Anayda Portela, a scientist at the Department of Neonatal, Child, Adolescent Health, and Geriatrics, pointed out at a press conference held in Geneva last Friday (June 7).

“This evidence is extremely important because it shows the major health risks that different climate conditions pose to each group of people,” Portela said.

She noted that the series of articles published in the Journal of Global Health show that climate-related health risks are “significantly underestimated” for people young, old, and pregnant and that these risks are “serious and often threatening.” Life Consequences.”

The study found that climate-related natural disasters have some “serious mental and physical health hazards” for pregnant women, young people, and the elderly.

For example, the author of the article believes that premature birth, which is the leading cause of child death, “increases in hot weather, and the elderly are more likely to suffer from heart disease or respiratory diseases.”

These authors report that hot weather “affects the cognitive abilities of children and adolescents, thereby affecting their learning.”

The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) State of the Global Climate Report confirms that 2023 will be the hottest year on record and predicts that global temperatures will be “1.5 degrees Celsius higher than in the pre-industrial period for the entire five-year period 2024-2028,” and scientists warn this could lead to rapid and irreversible changes in the climate.

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According to the WHO, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately “an additional 250,000 deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stroke alone.”

Portela also warned that air pollution increases the likelihood of high blood pressure in pregnant women, reduced birth weight, premature birth, and adverse effects on fetal brain and lung development.

“This increases the risk of respiratory illness in children and older adults,” she said. She also noted that these people are also at greater risk of “cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pneumonia.”

Research details the many harmful effects of climate-related natural disasters on human mental and physical health, including floods, droughts, and wildfires, which have also been shown to increase mortality related to respiratory disorders and cardiovascular disease in older adults.

“There is an urgent need to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building climate resilience, and taking concrete actions to protect people’s health at different stages of their lives,” Portela said.

The authors of the articles note that currently “few climate responses are tailored for women, infants, children, and adolescents” and are not suitable for older adults with mobility and cognitive limitations.

WHO calls on governments to address climate change as a health-related priority issue and proposes several specific actions that can be taken at different stages of life to improve and protect health.

This could include, for example, flexible working hours, preparing childcare and education systems for extreme weather and heat, and informing people and communities about the options they can take to protect vulnerable groups as hot weather and air pollution worsen. measure.

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