Europe's Climate Crisis: Alarming Health Impacts Revealed

A new Lancet Countdown report reveals Europe's temperature increase is twice the global average, resulting in rising heat-related deaths and disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations. The report urges European governments to adapt health systems and infrastructures to cope with climatic changes and address the impacts of climate change.

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Nitish Verma
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Europe's Climate Crisis: Alarming Health Impacts Revealed

Europe's Climate Crisis: Alarming Health Impacts Revealed

A new report by the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change paints a dire picture of the impacts of climate change on Europe's population. The report reveals that Europe's temperature increase is twice the global average, resulting in rising heat-related deaths and disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations.

Why this matters: The alarming health impacts of climate change in Europe have far-reaching consequences for the continent's healthcare systems, economies, and social structures. If left unchecked, these trends could lead to devastating and irreversible damage to human health, infrastructure, and the environment.

The report, led by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain, tracks 42 indicators, highlighting the negative impacts of climate change on human health, delayed climate action, and missed opportunities to protect or improve health. Nine new indicators have been added, covering leishmaniasis, ticks, food security, health-care emissions, production and consumption-based emissions, clean energy investment, and scientific, political, and media engagement with climate and health.

One of the most alarming findings is the disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations. Women are experiencing 21.5 additional deaths per 100,000 inhabitants due to heat-related illnesses. Climate change is also disproportionately affecting ethnic minorities and low-income communities.

Rachel Lowe, Director of the Lancet Countdown in Europe, explains, "In the last few decades, we've seen unprecedented, record-breaking temperatures, prolonged heat waves, and this has been linked to an increase in temperature-related mortality that would not have been observed if the temperatures had not been changing at the rate they have been doing over the last few decades."

The report also highlights the increased risk of insect-related diseases, such as leishmaniasis, dengue, Zika, and chikungunya, which are spreading northwards in Europe. "What we're seeing... is a northward shift of the area of Europe which is now suitable for the transmission of leishmaniasis... We're also seeing particularly in northern Europe increases in the length of the transmission season, suitable for ticks and in the case of mosquito-borne disease...," Lowe adds.

The Lancet Countdown in Europe was established in 2021 to assess the health profile of climate change and stimulate European social and political will to implement rapid health-responsive climate mitigation and adaptation actions. The report aims to reflect on aspects of inequality and justice by highlighting at-risk groups within Europe and Europe's responsibility for the climate crisis.

The report urges governments across Europe to ensure their health systems and infrastructures are adapting to cope with the climatic changes, particularly when it comes to diseases that could become established. It also criticizes governments for not doing enough to address the impacts of climate change, citing continued greenhouse gas emissions and subsidies for fossil fuels despite their health harms.

The Lancet Countdown report, published on May 12th in the Lancet Public Health journal, serves as a stark warning of the growing health impacts of climate change in Europe. With record-breaking temperatures, rising heat-related deaths, and the spread of insect-borne diseases, the report calls for urgent action from European governments to mitigate the climate crisis and protect the health of their populations, especially vulnerable groups.

Key Takeaways

  • Europe's temperature increase is twice the global average, leading to rising heat-related deaths.
  • Vulnerable populations, including women, ethnic minorities, and low-income communities, are disproportionately affected.
  • Insect-related diseases like leishmaniasis, dengue, and Zika are spreading northwards in Europe.
  • Climate change is linked to 21.5 additional deaths per 100,000 inhabitants due to heat-related illnesses in women.
  • The report urges European governments to adapt health systems and infrastructures to cope with climate change impacts.