Climate change can result in over 90 lakh deaths each year till end of century, says WHO report –

There could be 2.5 lakh additional deaths per year by end of 2030 and over 90 lakh deaths each year by the end of the century due to climate change, said the latest World Health Statistics 2023 report by the World Health Organization.

Additional deaths, or excess deaths, is the divergence between all-cause deaths reported in a particular year and the expected fatalities under normal conditions.

The estimates have been drawn up by leading researchers and working group II of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based on current evidence and global emissions.

This is the first time the World Health Statistics has included a chapter on climate change and its health impact.

The report stated that up to 360 crore people globally are exposed to the impacts of climate change with low and middle income countries, such as India, facing greater consequences despite contributing the least to the global emissions.

Within a country too, the report said, the poor, the elderly, women, children, indigenous people, outdoor workers and those with pre-existing medical conditions are at higher risk than others.

The report stated that in 2014, a group of researchers were tasked to estimate deaths due to climate change. This group estimated that climate-related deaths due to malaria, heatstroke, undernutrition, diarrhoea and coastal flood mishaps can result in 2.5 lakh more deaths by 2030.

Climate change can also adversely impact water and food quality, it said. “Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the burden of food-borne diseases, resulting in 1.25 lakh child deaths every year,” the report said, adding that continued climate change will increase this number further.

Changing temperature has also become more conducive for transmission of mosquito-borne, tick-borne and rodent-borne diseases, the report said. “If prevention methods are not strengthened, this could lead to an increase in the over 7 lakh deaths from vector-borne diseases each year,” it warned.

The World Health Statistics report recommended three crucial steps to reduce health impact of climate change – reduction in carbon emission, climate resilient health systems and adequate funding to protect public health from climate change.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, several health programmes also took a back seat. The pandemic is estimated to have resulted in nearly 1.5 crore excess deaths in 2020 and 2021.

“Covid-19 resulted in 337 million years of life lost globally in two years between 2020 and 2021,” said Dr Samira Asma, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization. “This is the most staggering finding. The world is off track in achieving sustainable development goals.”

Asma said countries will have to increase investment – financially and politically – to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030, .

Apart from climate related impact, non-communicable diseases have risen over the years, the report pointed out.

Haidong Wang, the unit head of Monitoring, Forecasting and Inequalities at the global health body, said that deaths due to non-communicable diseases will be doubling in three decades between 2019 and 2048. Deaths due to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and diabetes are estimated to account for 86% of all deaths by 2048 if the current trend continues.

Wang said that World Health Organization is also looking into emergence of more infectious diseases due to climate change. “Research on that is ongoing,” he added.

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