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The United Nations agency states that the climate crisis is causing a worldwide health crisis.
Science & Health

The United Nations agency states that the climate crisis is causing a worldwide health crisis.

According to a recent report from the U.N. weather agency, climate change poses a risk of undoing the advancements made in improving health and well-being, especially for the most susceptible communities.

The World Meteorological Organization released their yearly report on Climate Services, stating that the climate crisis has led to a worldwide health crisis. They also suggested that implementing adaptation and prevention measures could help alleviate the negative impacts of climate change.

The World Meteorological Organization stated that climate change is responsible for the current rapid increase in global temperatures, surpassing any previous records.

Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO, stated that we cannot return to the milder climate of the previous century. Instead, we are moving towards a warmer climate in the next few decades.

“He stated that if we do not succeed in reducing global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, we will continue to witness a worsening of this negative trend.”

According to the report, nations in Africa and southern Asia face the greatest threat from climate change, leading to an increase in diseases transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes, such as dengue and malaria. These diseases are now appearing in areas where they were previously not found.

Maria Neira, the director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Health, stated that the poor quality of the air we breathe is contributing to an increase in noncommunicable diseases such as lung cancer and chronic respiratory infections. She also expressed concern about the impact of extreme weather events on people’s health.

FILE - World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas attends a press conference at the U.N. offices in Geneva, Oct. 12, 2023.

The Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, holds a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on October 12, 2023.

Taalas observed that the issue of food insecurity was on the rise, while there was also a noticeable increase in the frequency of intense heat waves, exacerbating the effects of extreme weather events.

“In the past three years, the Horn of Africa has experienced extreme food insecurity due to a combination of heat and drought,” he explained. “During these occurrences, there is also a significant decline in air quality caused by heat waves.”

According to the WMO, extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of deaths compared to other severe weather events. Their analysis showed that between 2000 and 2019, extreme heat was the cause of approximately 489,000 fatalities annually, with Asia and Europe accounting for 45% and 36% of these deaths, respectively.

The article mentioned that heat waves exacerbate air pollution, which is a contributing factor to approximately 7 million premature deaths annually and ranks as the fourth highest cause of death by health risk.

Joy Shumake-Guillemot, the head of the WHO/WMO Joint Office on Climate and Health, stated that the health community is facing a major obstacle in tackling climate change.

“Significant disparities exist, especially in the early detection of climate-related consequences like extreme heat. Currently, only half of countries are receiving warnings about the potential risks of heat conditions.”

She stated that the report centered on the potential and advantage of utilizing climate science and services to enhance the knowledge of national policies.

Despite 74% of national meteorological services sharing data with countries’ health systems, only 23% of ministries of health effectively utilize this information in health surveillance systems to monitor diseases impacted by climate. The speaker emphasized the need for improved climate services to address these deficiencies.

The head of the WMO, Taalas, concurred with this evaluation, emphasizing the significance of climate data and services in assisting countries in handling severe weather occurrences, anticipating health hazards, and preserving lives.

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2021, photo, a shepherd stands in a dry riverbed at Colesberg, Northern Cape, South Africa.

In the image taken on September 24, 2021, a shepherd can be seen standing in a parched riverbed in Colesberg, Northern Cape, South Africa.

An instance of this is when he emphasized the significance of early-warning systems for extreme heat and pollen to assist those with allergies. Regrettably, he stated that efficient early-warning services are severely lacking in African countries and other regions.

According to him, African nations lack health services, specifically heat warnings for their people. Their governments are also limited in their ability to handle these warnings.

To address this issue, Taalas stated that WMO has implemented a significant program for early warning services that aims to assist African countries and others in enhancing their management of environmental health and climate services.

He stated that it is wise to proactively prevent pandemics by enhancing early warning services.

“We aim to reduce human casualties and minimize economic losses by implementing effective early-warning services. This is our main objective.”