ASIATODAY.ID, JAKARTA – Planet Earth, inhabited by humans, is facing a deadly threat this year.
In the summer of 2022, the effects of scorching heat killed an estimated 61,672 people across Europe. Most of those killed already had health problems such as heart and lung disease.
However, their deaths are inevitable: their breathing stops and their hearts are unable to pump blood in hot temperatures that are 160 times more likely due to climate change.
Despite the science of Climate Attribution, estimating the cumulative number of deaths from climate change is much more difficult, but experts since 2000 have calculated that the number of deaths from climate change will exceed 4 million people by 2024.
“Few of these deaths will be recognized by the families of the victims, or recognized by national governments, as a consequence of climate change,” said climate epidemiologist from the United States, Colin Carlson, as reported by Euro News, Friday, February 9 2024.
“More than half of these deaths are caused by malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, or malnutrition and diarrheal diseases in South Asia. And therefore, the majority of those who died are thought to be children,” he added.
Carlson, a global change biologist and assistant professor at Georgetown University, is calling for a massive shift in how we think about and respond to the climate emergency. Moreover, according to him, there is a lot of clear evidence that climate change has caused mass deaths on a pandemic-like scale.
So how are climate-related deaths calculated?
The first and perhaps only estimate is to use a method created by an Australian epidemiologist, Anthony McMichael. He developed a method to estimate the death rate due to these factors.
These factors include flooding, malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and cardiovascular disease, and the total number of deaths caused by climate change reaches 166 thousand per year. Using this method, Carlson said that the climate crisis annually kills almost as many residents as Geneva.
The figure of 4 million deaths by 2024 is quite conservative, as McMichael’s method does not include a number of other climate-related threats that experts have come to understand in recent years.
Global warming has also caused extreme death rates through hunger, conflict, suicide, forest fires, chronic and infectious diseases such as dengue fever.
According to Carlson, the world must respond to climate change as a public health emergency. This is considered effective in providing understanding to the public and policy makers.
This was also agreed by Dr Kyele Merrit, the first doctor to include climate change on a woman’s death certificate after the extreme heat wave in Canada in 2021.
“If we don’t look at the root cause, and we only treat the symptoms, we will continue to fall further and further behind,” Merritt said.
Carlson also does not see the seriousness of global governments in dealing with climate change. This lack of seriousness can be seen in the fact that global governments have only budgeted $143 million for climate adaptation funds, a far cry from the $9 trillion to combat Covid-19.
Not only that, according to Carlson, reducing greenhouse gases alone is not enough. National governments are deemed to need to meet climate and health challenges with substantive commitments; access to essential medicines; access to high-quality care; to access to food and clean water.
“The chronic global climate crisis demands a sustainable, long-term approach. We need to prepare health systems around the world to adapt and be more climate resilient and we need to reduce emissions dramatically, now,” stressed Carlson. (ATN)
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