40 million more vulnerable to heat waves because of climate change

James Marshall
December 1, 2018

The Lancet Countdown report on health and climate change, released on Wednesday, said average temperatures in India are projected to rise alarmingly.

People in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean are more vulnerable than those in Africa and Southeast Asia, probably because many older Europeans live in cities. In 2015 alone, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was responsible for 2.9 million premature deaths, with the burning of coal being directly attributable;for more than 460 000 (16%) of these deaths.

And they note that except for Queensland, no state or territory has a comprehensive, stand-alone policy to help people adapt to climate change and protect their health. In the work of the United Nations, as well as 27 leading research institutions were involved. A new and important finding this year was the global attribution of deaths to source.

"This report is timely because Australia is heading into worldwide climate negotiations at the UN Climate Change Summit in Poland next week where governments will decide how to implement the 2015 Paris agreement to limit global warming to under two degrees, with an aspirational target of not going above 1.5 degrees". Industry, electricity generation, transport, and agriculture are also important contributors.

Transport is responsible for numerous air pollution problems of urban areas, and levels are generally getting worse. This is what we typically do with the regional and local GAINS model: "giving advice to policymakers on the most efficient approaches to tackle air pollution in their specific settings", says Kiesewetter.

Globally, 157 million more vulnerable people were subjected to heatwaves past year than in 2000, and 18 million more than in 2016. As a result of the increased heat, 153 billion hours of labour (3.2 billion weeks of work) were lost in 2017, this is an increase of more than 62 billion hours since 2000.

India is one of the countries worst hit by heat stress and labour hours lost. India lost 75bn hours, equivalent to 7% of their total working population. The heat is often associated with air pollution in the cities.

Most G20 economies are not on track to fulfil their Paris pledges on time
Most G20 economies are not on track to fulfil their Paris pledges on time

The experts have looked in details at the progress the country has made in terms of taking action against climate change.

Between 1986 and 2017, the global temperature rose 0.3 degrees Celsius, or half of 1 degree Fahrenheit. In high temperatures, outdoor work, especially in agriculture, is hazardous.

"Health care professionals see first-hand the devastating health impacts of our changing climate". 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".

While the threat of climate change poses great risk to public health and the environment, universities in Australia have warned on Thursday that it could also cost the economy billions.

"The world has yet to effectively cut its emissions". The speed of climate change threatens our, and our children's lives. Following current trends we exhaust our carbon budget required to keep warming below two degrees, by 2032.

"Present day changes in heat waves and labour capacity provide early warning of the compounded and overwhelming impact on public health that is expected if temperatures continue to rise", says Professor Hilary Graham, The University of York, UK. "The availability of safe drinking water and clean air is at risk", the report reads.

The report's release coincides with a week of extreme weather in eastern Australia, with unprecedented unsafe bushfires in Queensland and severe storms and flooding in the Sydney region.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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