Dependence on fossil fuels compromises human health

A study points out that the vast majority of countries still allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, amounts comparable to or even greater than their health budgets.

“The climate crisis is killing us”: international medical experts denounce Wednesday, October 26 the excessive global dependence on fossil fuels, at the origin of climate change, which has deleterious effects on health.

“The world is at a turning point. (…) We must change. Otherwise our children will face an acceleration of climate change that would threaten their survival.warns Anthony Costello, professor and co-chair of the Lancet Countdown, an annual study conducted by 99 experts from 51 institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), under the supervision of University College of London.

As countries and health systems grapple with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, the analysis, released days before the opening of the UN climate meeting COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, highlights that the vast majority of countries still allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, amounts comparable to or even greater than their health budgets. Gold, “the persistent overreliance on fossil fuels is rapidly worsening climate change” and “causes dangerous repercussions for health”says the study.

The climate crisis is killing us. It damages not only the health of our planet, but also that of all its inhabitants (…) while the addiction to fossil fuels spirals out of control. »

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

Rising temperatures and extreme weather events – made more likely by climate change – leave nearly 100 million more people severely food insecure today, compared to the period 1981-2010, notes Elizabeth Robinson, director of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, one of the main contributors to the report. Meanwhile, heat-related deaths increased by 68% between 2017 and 2021 compared to 2000-2004, and human exposure to high fire risk days increased by 61% over similar periods.

Climate change also affects the spread of infectious diseases, the report shows. The window of opportunity for malaria transmission has increased by almost a third (32.1%) in parts of the Americas and by 14% in Africa over the past decade, compared to the period 1951-1960. Globally, the risk of dengue transmission increased by 12% over the period.

“The climate crisis is killing us. It damages not only the health of our planet, but also that of all its inhabitants (…) while the addiction to fossil fuels spirals out of control”, responded UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, calling for investment in renewable energy and climate resilience. A year ago, the WHO estimated that between 2030 and 2050, nearly 250,000 additional deaths per year would be attributable to climate change.

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“A fatally warmer future”

According to the study, countries themselves contribute to these health crises by subsidizing fossil fuels: 69 of the 86 governments analyzed subsidize the production and consumption of fossil fuels, for a net total of $400 billion in 2019. Result: “the carbon intensity of the global energy system (sector that contributes the most to greenhouse gas emissions) decreased by less than 1% compared to 1992” and “At the current rate, full decarbonization of our energy system would take 150 years”it is underlined. “The current strategies of many governments and corporations will lock the world into a fatally warmer future, tying us to the use of fossil fuels that are rapidly closing us off from the prospects of a livable world”points out Paul Ekins, professor of resources and policies at the Bartlett School of University College London.

To cope, the authors call for a “health-centered response”. Thus, improving air quality would prevent deaths from exposure to fossil fuels, which number 1.3 million in 2020 alone. Shifting to plant-based diets would reduce agricultural emissions by 55% and prevent up to 11.5 million annual diet-related deaths.

SEE ALSO – Health: “We treat the disease instead of treating the patient”, regrets Dr Alain Toledano

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