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Climate change

Climate change and health

Changes in climate have become more severe such as increasingly hot summers, prolonged periods of drought and increased periods of extreme weather such as prolonged rainfall. What is not always realised is that such changes can also have a severe impact on our health. Two recent examples of severe weather include the monsoon floods that devastated Pakistan in August 2022 and more recently tropical cyclone Freddy, the most severe tropical storm in more than 100 years, which devastated parts of Mozambique and Malawi.

However less well understood is the effect that such weather patterns can have on our health. In the aftermath of cyclone Freddy and flooding in Pakistan, residual pools of water will allow mosquitos to breed, which will result in increased cases of malaria for which there is no effective vaccine as yet.

The anopheles mosquito, the main carrier of the malaria parasite, is generally active at night and so the safest form of protection is to sleep under an insecticide treated bed net. However only 50% of the families living in sub tropical Africa have this form of protection. So warmer and wetter weather will simply increase the incidence of this disease, which infects some 250 million people world wide each year.

Though Covid 19 pandemic has caused much illness and many deaths, ever increasing changes in climate are likely to have a much greater impact. For example, heat related deaths are expected to treble in the next 30 years. With the likely rise in global temperatures, malaria carrying mosquitos could enter countries which currently do not suffer from such insects such as southern European countries bordering the Mediterranean and even the UK.

What is of ever increasing concern is the plight of those people whose crops have failed and/or have suffered severe drought due to climate change. The United Nations has estimated that by the end of this decade, some 200 million people will have become environmental refugees – where can they go and how can they be fed by neighbouring countries who may also be suffering such climate related extremes?

So climate change is a global problem and requires global solutions. What is clear from many analyses including the latest International Panel on Climate Change report is that investing in renewable energy technologies and methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions now is the only way that we will be able to reduce the impact of climate change on health.
[April 2023]



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