An international report issued on Thursday, the 20th anniversary of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, announced some alarming findings about the health effects of climate change.
In the new report “Global health impacts of climate change” the National Research Council, which advises the U.S. government, concludes “high confidence” that the world is headed toward extreme weather events and that the very least policy makers can do is try to mitigate risks.
The NRC concluded that:
Hotter and wetter global weather will reduce the nation’s ability to respond to environmental emergencies. Losses caused by “extreme” weather events such as hurricanes, floods, drought, heat waves and wildfires will in most cases exceed their insurance payouts. Americans have already been affected by hotter and wetter weather, and states experienced higher rates of and quality of hospitalization for heat-related ailments in 2012 than the previous year.
Heat waves will bring an additional risk of deaths. Already, in 2012, U.S. heat waves were the third-costliest weather-related disaster — after hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
Exposure to water-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue will increase. Frequent cases of malaria could reach 12 million annually by the end of the century, especially in Africa. As a result, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will dedicate more funding to protect vulnerable groups and stop the transmission of dengue viruses.
Sponge babies and other effects on humans and wildlife would not be limited to the United States. “In the future, extra heat in America, Africa, and Asia will eventually be transmitted to other continents and the world,” the NRC report said.
The report highlighted the urgency of reducing carbon emissions, while recognizing that many of the solutions — mitigating climate change — are costly and technically difficult.
Read the full report.