Climate change is bad for your health, no matter where you are


extreme heat kills About half a million people die each year worldwide, but at the current rate of global warming it could be nearly five times as deadly by 2050. Then there are the indirect health risks of climate change: erratic weather and higher temperatures trigger deadly natural disasters, bring diseases to new areas, and exacerbate economic insecurity and poor mental health.

Governments need to act, and The Lancet Countdown—an international research collaboration that tracks how health is being impacted—is giving decision-makers undeniable evidence that change is needed now. “When we talk about climate change, we are not talking about the future. “The price of inaction costs us lives,” says Marina Romanello, the organization's executive director.

But, she says, we shouldn't just see this as a doomsday scenario. “We need to do a lot more to tackle climate change to have a better quality of life,” Romanello says. The by-products of the action are greener cities, cleaner air and healthier, more affordable diets. Before speaking at WIRED Health this month, Romanello sat down with WIRED to talk about what we do and don't know about the health risks of inaction, and why acting now is for everyone's good. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Wired: How is climate change affecting health right now?

Marina Romanello: Every year, according to every indicator we measure, the impact of climate change on health is getting worse. We are witnessing extreme heat, extreme storms, floods and drought events, which are impacting people's health both directly and indirectly – they impact food systems, water quality and the transmission of infectious diseases such as dengue and malaria. which are spreading. In new parts of the world.

Climate change also affects socio-economic conditions. Exposure to heat reduces labor productivity, which reduces the income of many people and in turn reduces their ability to maintain good mental and physical health.

this is too much. How are you keeping track of all that?

We monitor over 50 indicators using different techniques, tools and models according to the type of risk we are monitoring. We are monitoring ever-changing environmental hazards – hence the changing occurrence, frequency and intensity of extreme events that threaten people's health.

We also measure some indirect health impacts of climate change. For example, we monitor self-reported food insecurity. And then sometimes, we combine measures together. For example, we are able to link self-reported food insecurity to increased frequency of heat waves, to show that 127 million more people will be food insecure in 2022 than the 1990 average due to climate change. informed of.

How are these effects distributed? Is there any part of the world where climate change is not affecting health?

No part of the world is safe, but threats and impacts are not evenly distributed. For example, Europe is warming rapidly, and because it has a large elderly population and a high incidence of non-communicable diseases, the death rate from extreme heat is among the highest in the world.

Elsewhere, extreme drought is affecting people, for example in the Horn of Africa, where it is causing severe hunger. Then dengue is spreading in South America. More areas in Africa and parts of Asia are becoming suitable for malaria transmission. So the effects of climate change are being felt everywhere but in different ways.