Deadlier than Covid, or even rivalling cancer? Researchers have been increasingly attempting to calculate the effect climate change will have on health if the world does not act quickly to reduce carbon emissions.
The World Health Organization, which says climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, has called for the issue to be “front and centre” in negotiations at the COP27 summit being held in Egypt.
But quantifying the overall impact is an extremely complicated task, experts told AFP, because global warming affects health in many different ways, from the immediate dangers of rising heat and extreme weather to longer-term food and water shortages, air pollution and disease.
The WHO estimates that climate change will cause 250,000 extra deaths a year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress between 2030 and 2050.
That is widely thought to be a “massively conservative estimate” of the true toll, partly because it only comes from four sources, said Jess Beagley, policy lead at the NGO Global Climate and Health Alliance.
“Climate change is a threat multiplier,” she told AFP.
“As climate change worsens, we’re going to see the biggest threats to human health increase.”
Nearly 70 percent of all deaths worldwide are from diseases that could be made worse by global warming, according to a report this year from the IPCC, the United Nations’ panel of climate experts.