Speakers at the 19th World Meteorological Congress also raised concerns over extreme heat and the need to strengthen early warning systems
The World Meteorological Congress May 24, 2023 recognised climate change as a threat to human health and endorsed a 10-year plan to scale up health services.
The 2023-2033 Implementation Plan for Advancing Climate, Environment and Health Science and Services by the World Health Organization (WHO)-WMO was chalked out with the aim to achieve “better health and well-being for people facing existing and emerging extreme weather events, climate change and environmental risks through the effective integration of climate, environment and health science and services across the world”.
This will promote a coordinated approach to manage the impact of climate, weather, air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, extreme events and other environmental factors on health.
The endorsement of the plan on the second day of the 19th World Meteorological Congress (Cg-19) is significant when climate-related illnesses, premature deaths, malnutrition and threats to mental health and well-being are increasing.
Speakers at the WMO Congress paid special attention to the increase in climate-related diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
From 2030-2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, according to WHO.
Up to 8.4 billion people could be at risk from two major vector-borne diseases, malaria and dengue, by the end of the century if emissions keep rising at current levels, according to a study.
Whether it is zoonoses or water-borne diseases, climate change has a clear role to play in their spread in the African continent, according to an analysis by Down to Earth.
Climate-related health emergencies are on the rise in Africa, said WHO.
The speakers also raised concerns over extreme heat and the need to strengthen “understanding, early warning and risk management of the climate-related cascading risks of extreme heat, wildfire and air quality related health risks”.
These concerns have been raised since hundreds of millions of people are experiencing more frequent and intense heat waves that are now starting earlier and ending later than in the past.
For example, in 2022, India recorded its hottest March which had triggered an early onslaught of heat waves across north, central and east India from March-May, according to the State of India’s Environment 2023: In figures report published by Down to Earth magazine of the Centre for Science and Environment.
Extreme heat will oust 600 million Indians from their climate niche, exposing them to extreme temperatures by 2030, warned a new study released May 22, 2023.
At least 15,000 people died in Europe because of extreme heat in 2022, confirmed Hans Henri P Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement in November 2022.
Extreme heat is therefore a focus area of the United Nations Early Warnings for All initiative and for climate adaptation strategies, stated WMO in its statement May 24, 2023.
The Early Warnings for All initiative is one of the top strategic priorities at Cg-19, which is currently taking place from May 22 to 2 June, 2023 at Geneva.
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