Climate change and health: time to act?
The UK's recent record-breaking heatwave – with temperatures reaching 40.3°C – has made many of us reflect on climate change and the impacts this will have on health in the future, as extreme weather becomes more common. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA, 2021) state that ‘our changing climate is one of the most challenging health security threats we face and understanding and mitigating its impact on our health is a key priority.’ Statistics show that the average surface temperature in the UK has already risen by 1.2°C (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), 2022), putting us at higher risk of drought, flooding and extreme weather events. In Summer 2020 there were 2556 all-cause excess deaths (excluding deaths from COVID-19) during episodes of heat (UKHSA, 2021), and it is projected that heat-related deaths will triple by 2050.
The warming climate puts health at risk by increasing the likelihood of injuries and illness from extreme weather events, affecting the supply of safe water, crop failure leading to food shortages, changing the patterns of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever, as well as social effects that impact on health such as those caused by loss of livelihoods and pressures on health services.
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