Climate crisis: Health must be front and centre at COP27

KZN floods: Healthcare services take a battering
Health impacts of climate crisis must be at the centre of COP 27. (Photo: John Steenhuisen - Twitter)

On the eve of the pivotal climate talks at COP27, the World Health Organisation issued a grim reminder the health impacts of the climate crisis must be at the core of these critical negotiations. The climate crisis increasingly makes people sick and jeopardises lives. The organisation said climate change is already affecting people’s health, and urgent action is needed to stop this.

The WHO said COP 27 must end with progress on mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaboration to tackle the climate crisis.

“Climate change is making millions of people sick or more vulnerable to disease worldwide. The increasing destructiveness of extreme weather events disproportionately affects poor and marginalised communities,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Climate crisis to health will cost billions

He said the ecosystems on which the global population’s health is threatened more than ever by deforestation, agriculture and other changes in land use and rapid urban development. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change could cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths annually. These would be from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

By 2030 the direct damage costs to health could be between R35 billion and R72 billion per year. This excludes costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), which is

The rise in global temperature that has already occurred is leading to extreme weather events that bring intense heatwaves and droughts, devastating floods and increasingly powerful hurricanes and tropical storms. The combination of these factors means the impact on human health is increasing and is likely to accelerate.

The WHO believes hope exists if governments honour the pledges made at Glasgow in November 2021 and go further in resolving the climate crisis. The organisation urges a just, equitable and fast phase-out of fossil fuels and a transition to a clean energy future.

“Improvement in human health is something that all citizens can contribute to, whether through the promotion of more urban green spaces, which facilitate climate mitigation and adaptation while decreasing the exposure to air pollution, or campaigning for local traffic restrictions and the enhancement of local transport systems. Community engagement and participation in climate change are essential to building resilience and strengthening food and health systems.”

Food security is under increasing threat

Thirty-one million people in the greater Horn of Africa face acute hunger. Eleven million children in the region face acute malnutrition due to one of the worst droughts in recent decades. Climate change already impacts food security; iff current trends persist, it will only worsen.

“­Climate policy must now put health at the centre and promote climate change mitigation policies that bring health benefits simultaneously. Health-focused climate policy would ensure cleaner air, safer fresh water and food. This would create effective and fairer health and social protection systems and, as a result, healthier people.” –Health-e News


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