Climate change greatest threat to global health

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GENEVA

Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st Century, according to the World Health Organization .

In a recent report, the WHO said health professionals have a duty to protect people from climate impacts, outbreaks of infectious diseases and the effects of malnutrition as well as to treat people affected by cancer and other non-communicable diseases caused by environmental pollution. The report aimed to raise awareness of the health effects of climate change. The WHO also called on the global health community to add its voice to the call for a strong and effective climate agreement.

The climate agreement aimed to reduce climate change and improve health, including reducing the number of deaths from cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases that are caused by air pollution.

The agreement committed to contribute to the development and implementation of measures to limit climate change and protect countries, communities and workplaces.

Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day. In 2019, air pollution is considered by WHO as the greatest environmental risk to health. Microscopic pollutants in the air can penetrate respiratory and circulatory systems, damaging the lungs, heart and brain, killing 7 million people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease. Around 90% of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries, with high volumes of emissions from industry, transport and agriculture, as well as dirty cook stoves and fuels in homes.

The primary cause of air pollution (burning fossil fuels) is also a major contributor to climate change, which impacts people’s health in different ways. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.

In October 2018, WHO held its first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva. Countries and organizations made more than 70 commitments to improve air quality. This year, the United Nations Climate Summit in September will aim to strengthen climate action and ambition worldwide. Even if all the commitments made by countries for the Paris Agreement are achieved, the world is still on a course to warm by more than 3°C this century.

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