This is what climate change can do to our survival

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KUWAIT CITY, Dec 8, (Agencies): Climate change is a fundamental threat to human health since it affects the physical environment as well as all aspects of both natural and human systems – including social and economic conditions and the functioning of health systems.

This is what makes it a threat multiplier, undermining and potentially reversing decades of health progress. As conditions change, more frequent and intensifying weather and climate events are observed, including storms, extreme heat, floods, droughts and wildfires, these weather and climate hazards affect health both directly and indirectly, increasing the risk of deaths, noncommunicable diseases, the emergence and spread of infectious diseases, and health emergencies.

Climate change is also having an impact on our health workforce and infrastructure, reducing capacity to provide universal health coverage (UHC). More fundamentally, climate shocks and growing stresses such as changing temperature and precipitation patterns, drought, floods and rising sea levels degrade the environmental and social determinants of physical and mental health.

All aspects of health are affected by climate change, from clean air, water and soil to food systems and livelihoods. Further delay in tackling climate change will increase health risks, undermine decades of improvements in global health, and contravene our collective commitments to ensure the human right to health for all. Climate change is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.

Research shows that 3.6 billion people already live in areas highly susceptible to climate change. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone.

The direct damage costs to health (excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation) is estimated to be between US$ 2–4 billion per year by 2030. 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 very large gains for health, particularly through reduced air pollution.

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