Climate change risks are on the rise globally warn researchers

Researchers have warned that if the present rates of climate change and global warming continue, none would be spared. Governments need to sit up and take action, they add. This increase in risks is true for almost all countries around the world.

Image Credit: Meryll / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Meryll / Shutterstock

Climate stories from Australia

The report that comes from 19 experts from 13 different universities across the world says Australia has gone “backwards” in terms of taking action against climate change. It is behind other nations such as Germany and Britain in terms of protection of populations from the effects of climate change. The main problems faced include those as a result of air pollution and global warming.

The experts have looked in details at the progress the country has made in terms of taking action against climate change. The report adds that some of the major risk factors across the nation include heat waves, outbreaks of deadly diseases, malnutrition and overnutrition along with mental health problems. These new problems plague millions living in the country says the report that was published by the Medical Journal of Australia and The Lancet this week.

The report says that except for Queensland, no other states or territories have a concrete policy to help protect health of the populations and help people to adjust and adapt to the changes in the climate. Authors of the report write, “Overall, we find that Australia is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on health, and that policy inaction in this regard threatens Australian lives.”

Heat waves for example are one of the rising concerns, they add. It is killing more and more number of people and causing health problems in others. Improvement of air quality and improving transport systems that are suitable and protective of the environment are need of the day, the researchers add. Associate Professor Paul Beggs, from Macquarie University, one of the authors of the report adds that climate change is having a detrimental effect on mental health and rising temperatures are linked with rising number of suicides. Beggs said, ““One of the report's policy recommendations is to do more research in this area to look at the relationship between climate and mental health so we can cope better.”

The report goes on explain that warmer climates are also responsible for spread of microbes and infections leading to outbreaks and epidemics. Particularly salmonella bacteria and dengue fevers are on the rise. Warmer climates lead to more frequent floods and droughts leading to shortage of fresh food and clean drinking water, the researchers add.

The team warns that the government needs to start looking at renewable sources of energy and reduce its dependence on carbon-intensive power supplies. Beggs stated that Australia once led the world in usage of renewable energy sources but now lags behind others. He said that one of the reasons for decline in government interest in climate change and its problems could be decline in media coverage of climate related stories that has reduced by 50 percent over the last decade. In other nations there is a 78 percent rise in media coverage of climate related stories, he added. The report also states, “Relatedly, there has been an absence of political engagement with health and climate change in Australia in the same period.”

Climate stories from Europe

A report states that there is a significant impact of climate change in European nations as well. The report adds that with the advent of the heat waves there is a rising risk of infections such as dengue among the nations.

The report called the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change was compiled by 150 experts from 27 different Universities and institutions that include the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO). It explains that rising temperatures caused 157 billion hours of lost farm work in 2017 that had a significant impact on crops.

“The findings are clear and the stakes could not be higher,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “We cannot delay action on climate change. We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.” The authors write, “A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease, and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air.”

Nick Watt, the executive director of the Lancet Countdown, in a statement said, “These are not things happening in 2050 but are things we are already seeing today. We think of these as the canary in, ironically, the coalmine.”

The United Nations too has said that the policies, efforts and activities that reduce carbon emissions should be tripled to stop warming. The report adds that this lack of action “threatens both human lives and the viability of the national health systems they depend on, with the potential to overwhelm health services”.

The report adds that not only Europe but countries in the eastern Mediterranean are also at a greater risk compared to nations in Africa and south-east Asia because of the higher number of elderly living in cities in these nations. The report states that with the rising temperatures 157 million more people were facing the heat wave in 2017 compared to those in 2000. This heat is linked to dehydration, infections, heart disease, air pollution and also mental health problems, the experts add.

Prof Hilary Graham, of the University of York from the team of researchers said, “Health is what people feel. It makes a direct connection with their lives and the lives of people they care about like their children and grandchildren.”

Climate stories from America

The stories from America are similar. The Lancet Countdown report says that 12.3 million more people experienced a heat wave in 2016 than in 2000 in America. This led to 1.1 billion hours of labour. In addition there is a rise in vectors carrying illnesses like malaria, Zika, dengue etc. leading to outbreaks.

Renee Salas, director of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and the lead author of the report’s US chapter said that people with asthma attacks and heat stress are being treated more commonly than before. He said, “Viewing climate change as a public health emergency is literally second nature.”

In an accompanying editorial with the report it says, “Today’s babies, by adulthood, will live on a planet without an Arctic. Prevalence of heatstroke and extreme weather will have redefined global labour and production beyond recognition. Multiple cities will be uninhabitable and migration patterns will be far beyond those levels already creating pressure worldwide.”

Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the Lancet report in a statement said, “We don’t see these health impacts individually. We see them jointly. We see them coming at communities all at the same time.”

The American report is called the National Climate Assessment. It says that the climate change can lead to problems in the nation’s water and sewer systems and lead to acute shortages of clean drinking water and lead to outbreaks of gastrointestinal infections.

Sources:

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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