Damian Carrington Environment editor
Monday 30 October 2017 23.30 GMT
Heatwaves are affecting many more vulnerable people and global warming is boosting the transmission of deadly diseases such as dengue fever, the world’s most rapidly spreading disease. Air pollution from fossil fuel burning is also causing millions of early deaths each year, while damage to crops from extreme weather threatens hunger for millions of children.
The findings, published in the Lancet journal, come from researchers at 26 institutions around the world, including many universities, the World Health Organization, World Bank and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO reported on Monday that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere made a record jump in 2016 to hit a concentration not seen for more than three million years.
“Climate change is happening and it’s a health issue today for millions worldwide,” said Prof Anthony Costello, at the World Health Organization and co-chair of the group behind the new report. It follows a related report in 2009 that warned that climate change was the biggest danger to global health in the 21st century, an assessment repeated in the new report.
But Costello said acting to halt global warming would also deliver a huge benefit for health: “The outlook is challenging, but we still have an opportunity to turn a looming medical emergency into the most significant advance for public health this century.”
“Our scientists have been telling us for some time that we’ve got a bad case of climate change. Now our doctors are telling us it’s bad for our health,” said Christiana Figueres, who as the UN’s climate chief negotiated the Paris climate change agreement and also co-chaired the new report.
“Hundreds of millions of people are already suffering health impacts as a result of climate change,” she told the Guardian. “Tackling climate change directly, unequivocally, and immediately improves global health. It’s as simple as that.”