Climate change affects health, shelter

KARACHI: Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Global warming that has occurred since the 1970s caused over 140 000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004.

According to a WHO report, the direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between US$ 2-4 billion/year by 2030.

Many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate-sensitive and are expected to worsen as the climate changes. Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health.

Over the last 50 years, human activities – particularly the burning of fossil fuels – have released sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap additional heat in the lower atmosphere and affect the global climate.

In the last 100 years, the world has warmed by approximately 0.75oC. Over the last 25 years, the rate of global warming has accelerated, at over 0.18oC per decade. Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and precipitation patterns are changing. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent.

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