In the coming decades, almost five times more people are expected to die from heat. (Representative)

Paris, France:

Nearly five times more people are likely to die from extreme heat in the coming decades, an international team of experts said on Wednesday, warning that without action on climate change, “the health of humanity is in grave danger.”

Deadly heat was just one of many ways the world’s still-increasing use of fossil fuels threatens human health, according to The Lancet Countdown, a major annual assessment conducted by leading researchers and institutions.

More frequent droughts will put millions of people at risk of starvation, mosquitoes spreading more widely than ever before will bring infectious diseases, and health systems will struggle to cope, researchers warned.

The grim assessment comes amid what is expected to be the hottest year in human history – just last week, Europe’s climate monitor declared that last month was the warmest October on record.

It also comes ahead of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this month, which will host a first-ever “Health Day” on December 3, with experts trying to shed light on the impact of global warming on health.

Despite growing calls for global action, energy-related CO2 emissions reached new highs last year, says the Lancet Countdown report, which still highlights massive government subsidies and private bank investment in planet-warming fossil fuels.

“Crisis upon crisis”

According to the Lancet Countdown study, people worldwide were exposed to life-threatening temperatures for an average of 86 days last year. Around 60 percent of these days are more than twice as likely due to climate change, it said.

The number of people over 65 who died from heat increased by 85 percent from 1991 to 2000 to 2013 to 2022, it said.

“However, these impacts we are seeing today could be just an early symptom of a very dangerous future,” said Marina Romanello, executive director of Lancet Countdown.

Assuming the world warms by two degrees Celsius by the end of the century (currently at 2.7 degrees Celsius), annual heat-related deaths would likely increase by 370 percent by 2050. This corresponds to a 4.7-fold increase.

It is predicted that approximately 520 million more people will suffer from moderate or severe food insecurity by mid-century.

And mosquito-borne infectious diseases will continue to spread to new areas. According to the study, dengue transmission would increase by 36 percent under a 2°C warming scenario.

Meanwhile, more than a quarter of cities surveyed by the researchers said they were concerned that climate change would overwhelm their coping capacities.

“We are facing a crisis on top of a crisis,” said Lancet Countdown’s Georgiana Gordon-Strachan, whose native Jamaica is currently in the midst of a dengue outbreak.

“People in poorer countries, who are often least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, bear the brunt of the health impacts,” she said.

“Going in the wrong direction”

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told an online conference to launch the Lancet Countdown report that limiting warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5C was a “public health imperative.”

“The world is moving in the wrong direction, unable to curb its dependence on fossil fuels and leaving vulnerable communities behind in the much-needed energy transition,” Tedros said.

On Tuesday, the United Nations warned that countries’ current pledges will only cut global carbon emissions by 2 percent from 2019 levels by 2030 – far less than the 43 percent drop needed to limit warming to 1.5 percent °C to limit.

Romanello warned that unless further progress is made on emissions, “the growing emphasis on health in climate negotiations could risk becoming just empty words.”

However, there are “glimmers of hope,” she added.

The number of global deaths linked to air pollution from fossil fuels has fallen 16 percent since 2005, largely thanks to efforts to reduce the impact of coal burning, the report said.

Global investment in green energy rose 15 percent last year to $1.6 trillion, compared with $1 trillion for fossil fuels.

And if people switched to healthier, lower-carbon diets, up to 12 million deaths per year could be prevented while reducing emissions from dairy and red meat production by 57 percent, the report said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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