The fate of human health around the globe is “at the mercy of a persistent fossil fuel addiction,” according to a report published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal.
The 99 researchers involved in the report concluded that government and private sector reliance on fossil fuels had exacerbated food insecurity, increased the spread of infectious diseases and made heat-related illnesses more prevalent.
There has been a tendency to put climate change on the back burner. If we are not able to reverse the present trend, we will be doomed.
The report warned that the costs of climate change inaction on global health would compile those of the Covid-19 pandemic, current armed conflicts and macroeconomic challenges.
The experts found that heatwaves resulted in 98 million more people reporting moderate to medium food insecurity in 2020 compared to the average of the 30-year period ending in 2010.See Also:Editors from 200 Health Journals Warn Climate Change Is Creating Global Health Crises
They said that 29 percent more land area was affected by extreme drought from 2012 to 2021 than in the same period 70 years before, which has increased food and water insecurity, threatened sanitation, exacerbated wildfires and raised the risk of infectious diseases spreading.
The report also found that rising annual average temperatures have elongated the breeding season for mosquitos, increasing the transmission of dengue, yellow fever and the parasite that causes heartworm by more than 10 percent in the past 10 years compared to the same period 70 years ago.
The researchers added that climate change has also expanded the geographic range for these types of diseases as well as food-borne and waterborne diseases.
The report further found that heat-related deaths have increased by two-thirds since 2001. The experts pointed out that extreme heat has a range of health impacts, such as aggravating respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, increasing heat stroke and hurting mental health.
While the report painted a grim picture, the authors finished with an optimistic call to action and said immediate steps to lower emissions would still save millions of lives. However, they warned that this would require a greatly accelerated transition away from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, a separate report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released right after the Lancet report highlighted the extent of the challenge presented by fossil fuel extractions.
The WMO found that atmospheric concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases reached record highs in 2021, indicating the burning of fossil fuels continued to increase despite substantial investment in renewable energy over the past decade.
António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, told the BBC that the global community must re-prioritize climate change despite the distractions created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global energy crisis and rampant inflation.
“There has been a tendency to put climate change on the back burner,” he said. “If we are not able to reverse the present trend, we will be doomed.”
“This is the defining issue of our time, nobody has the right to sacrifice international action on climate change for any reason,” Guterres concluded.