Climate Change

World goes pound foolish over climate-related health risks

Less than 4 per cent of the global climate adaptation funding is to deal with health impacts

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 10 December 2018
Climate Change
Climate change is expected to cause 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Credit: Getty Images Climate change is expected to cause 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Credit: Getty Images

The world remains ill-prepared for the health impacts that come with increasing temperatures and extreme weather events, say two reports released recently.

While the 2017 adaptation funds—$472·82 million—already fall short of the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, only 3.8 per cent of it is allocated for health, reveals The Lancet Countdown.

Another report—United Nations Environment Adaptation Gap 2018—reiterates the fact that the current adaptation efforts and finances made available are by no means sufficient to minimise future health impact of the changing climate. Both the reports call for financial preparedness to deal with health risks owing to climate change. This report was released at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Fatal heat

Climate change is expected to cause 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Of these, 38,000 people will die in old age owing to heat exposure, 48,000 people will die due to diarrhoea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 95,000 due to malnutrition, warned the latest World Health Organization assessment.

But while progress has been made in reducing climate-sensitive diseases and injuries, current adaptation efforts are well below the level required to avoid or minimise negative health impacts.

Unless adaptation efforts are strengthened considerably, heat and extreme weather events-related morbidity and mortality will continue to rise, warns the report. Heat-related annual mortality of the elderly can rise by more than 90,000 by 2030 and more than 250,000 by 2050, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Tracking a task

Current funding for climate change adaptation in health is negligible. While health is a priority sector in 54 per cent of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), only few are measurable.

NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and list efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. But the less number of quantifiable targets will hinder national policy-making efforts, and the ability to increase ambition over time.

The annual cost of adaptation can range from $140 billion to $300 billion by 2030 and from $280 billion to $500 billion by 2050.  What is urgently needed to narrow the adaptation gap in health, both today and in the future, is the political will and the necessary financial resources to implement the most important actions related to climate resilient health systems.

The UN report calls for widening the development agenda aimed at reducing vulnerability to climate-sensitive health risks, particularly infectious diseases and food and nutritional insecurity.  It also recommends that since health impacts will strongly increase in the future due to climate change, it is essential that the nations scale up their adaptation measures.  

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.