Health and Climate Change


On climate and health

1. Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The impacts

are already harming health through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events,

forced displacement, food insecurity and pressures on mental health. Every year,

environmental factors take the lives of around 13 million people.

2. Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement could save about a million lives a year

worldwide by 2050 through reductions in air pollution alone. Avoiding the worst

climate impacts could help prevent 250,000 additional climate-related deaths per year

from 2030 to 2050, mainly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

3. The value of health gains from reducing carbon emissions would be approximately

double the global cost of implementing carbon mitigation measures.

4. Over 90 per cent of people breathe unhealthy levels of air pollution, largely resulting

from burning fossil fuels driving climate change. In 2018, air pollution from fossil fuels

caused $2.9 trillion in health and economic costs, about $8 billion a day.

5. Transportation produces around 20 per cent of global carbon emissions.

Alternatives like walking and cycling are not only green but also offer major health

benefits, such as reducing the risk of many chronic health conditions and improving

mental health.

6. Systems to produce, package and distribute food generate a third of greenhouse

gas emissions. More sustainable production would mitigate climate impacts and

support more nutritious diets that could prevent close to 11 million premature deaths

a year.

7. Health systems are the main line of defence for populations faced with emerging

health threats, including from climate change. To protect health and avoid widening

health inequities, countries must build climate-resilient health systems.

8. The majority of countries identify health as a priority sector vulnerable to climate

change. But a huge finance gap remains. Less than 2 per cent of multilateral climate

finance goes to health projects.

9. Healthy societies rely on well-functioning ecosystems to provide clean air, fresh

water, medicines and food security. These help to limit disease and stabilize the

climate. But biodiversity loss is happening at an unprecedented rate, impacting human

health worldwide and increasing the risk of emerging infectious diseases.

Sources: WHO (1), WHO (2-5), United Nations (6), WHO (6, 9), WHO (7), WHO (8).

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