WHO: climate change biggest threat

Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO said that climate change is impacting human lives and health in a variety of ways. It threatens the essential ingredients of good health – clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply and safe shelter – and has the potential to undermine decades of progress in global health.

Another major health threat, it added, is noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 74% of all deaths globally. Each year, 17 million people die from an NCD before age 70; 86% of these premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. 

Of all NCD deaths, 77% are in low- and middle-income countries. Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.3 million), chronic respiratory diseases (4.1 million), and diabetes (2.0 million including kidney disease deaths caused by diabetes). These 4 groups of diseases account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths.

The WHO added that the two major global crises of our time, climate change and the epidemic of NCDs, are intertwined:

“They erode gains in health and development and the quality of life, hitting poor and marginalised people the hardest. Action to manage them both should be aligned in synergistic interventions that can address both.”

Human toll: how climate change impacts NCDs

According to the WHO: “Climate change is already impacting health in a myriad of ways, including by leading to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues.”