Climate change poses a threat to health due to increased weather disasters and extreme heat, the UN said on Thursday, calling for better warning services to mitigate the worst effects.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has argued that climate information is not sufficiently integrated into health service planning.
A threat to global health
“Climate change threatens to reverse decades of progress toward better health and well-being, especially in the most vulnerable communities“, warned the WMO.
WMO’s annual State of Climate Services report says tailored climate information is needed to support the health sector in the face of more extreme weather and poor air quality, as infectious disease trends and food and water insecurity.
The report comes weeks before the COP28 climate summit from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai.
WMO notes that extreme heat causes the greatest mortality of all extreme weather conditions, but health decision-makers in only half of countries affected by such high temperatures have access to warning services in terms of heat.
Climate crisis, health crisis
Between 2000 and 2019, the number of deaths due to heat is estimated at around 489,000 per year, according to the same source.
“Almost the entire planet has experienced heat waves this year” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.
Less than a quarter of health ministries have a health surveillance system that uses weather information to monitor climate-related health risks.
According to the WMO report, countries with limited early warning coverage have disaster mortality eight times higher than countries with substantial or comprehensive coverage.
More than one climate catastrophe per day in 2030
And the number of medium or large scale disasters “expected to reach 560 per year – or 1.5 per day – by 2030”underlined the agency.
The report highlights the usefulness of early warning systems for extreme heat, pollen monitoring and satellite monitoring of climate-sensitive diseases.
“The climate crisis is a health crisis, leading to more severe and unpredictable weather events, fueling epidemics and contributing to rising rates of noncommunicable diseases” said the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Looking ahead, the report says more hydrometeorological investments need to be designed in a way that supports health outcomes.