A new report claims that climate change poses huge risks to the progress made in human health.
Researchers believe that the effects of climate change on human health could be so great that the progress science has made over the course of the past 50 years is in danger.
Climate change affects health both directly and indirectly
“Impact of climate change on global health could be enormous not only through the direct health effects, but also because of reduced social stability if people are forced to move or flee,” said Peter Byass, professor of global health at Umea University in Sweden.
The report showed that the direct health effects of climate change are also connected to the greater frequency and intensity of weather events such as heatwaves, floods, droughts and storms.
The authors also claim that there are multiple indirect impacts of climate change on human health, such as changes in infection patterns, effects of emissions and uncertainty over food resources.
Other effects on health can be provoked by the forced movement of peoples from areas affected by extreme weather events, or slower population movements away from areas which may be affected by changing conditions, such as rising sea levels.
Important decisions to be made on climate change
On the other hand, researchers say that successful efforts to combat climate change and its causes could lead to great improvements in global health. “Meanwhile, we know that mitigation and adaptation around climate change can have positive health effects, for example both by reducing emissions and improving dietary habits,” Byass said.
If the researchers are to be believed, the human race could be at a crossroads not only in terms of saving the planet as we know it, but also in terms of global health. “Effective climate action may actually prove to be one of the greatest opportunities to also improve global health that we have ever had,” Byass continued.
The authors of the report outline their proposals for an independent global action plan called “Countdown to 2030: Climate Change and Health Action.” As part of the plan, an organization responsible for monitoring the links between health status and climate change would be formed, and make a biannual report of its findings to the United Nations.
Institutional frameworks must be put in place swiftly if we are to seize the opportunity to improve global health rather than let climate change wipe out previous progress.