IPCC 2022 report : what are the health consequences of global warming?

The latest IPCC report warns that we have 3 years left to reverse the trend of greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming and all its consequences. What impacts does global warming have and will have on our exposome (health/environment) ?

 

 

Reading time: 8 minutes

Summary

Global warming: an alarming fact
An increase of a few degrees: what impact on the living environment?
Impacts on population health
Impacts on daily life in an urban environment
What actions should be taken to limit global warming?

🔔 Global warming: an alarming fact

The IPCC is the group of intergovernmental experts responsible for studying climate change, its causes and impacts. They make their research public in the form of reports. Created in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and theWorld Meteorological Organization (WMO), it brings together 195 member states

Their study is formal: greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 to limit global warming to 1.5°C ; this is worth repeating, but this rapid warming is due to anthropogenic activities (i.e human activities) and is not natural. The current trajectory, with increasing greenhouse gas emissions, would lead to a global warming of at least 3°C in the medium term. This figure may not seem alarming, but when it comes to global warming, every tenth of a degree counts! Theeffects of climate change are numerous.

🌡️ An increase of a few degrees: what impacts on the living environment?

Why is it so important that global warming does not rise above 1.5°C? The environmental and health consequences at 2°C are already much more drastic than at 1.5°C:

👉 Rising sea levels would threaten an additional 10 million people,

👉 Heat waves would be warmer (+4°C),

👉 The loss of natural habitat for vertebrates, insects and plants would be doubled and biodiversity would be severely threatened,

👉 The reduction in fish catch would be doubled (loss of 3 million/ton annually),

👉 The decrease in cereal crop yields would be more significant,

👉 Water stress (drought) would be more than 50% higher at 2°C,

👉 The risk of torrential rains would be higher,

👉 Several hundred million more people would be exposed to climate risks and poverty.

 

All these consequences for only half a degree! If the warming reaches 3°C or more the impacts will be even more devastating.

💙 Effects on physical and mental health

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that climate change is responsible for at least 150,000 deaths per year, a figure that is expected to double by 2030.

The increase of temperature does not only impact the environment.The health and well-being of all is impacted and must be taken into account to envision the future in a resilient manner. The main health consequences of global warming to be expected are:

👉 Mental health impacted by weather, climate, trauma, social and economic disruptions,

👉 Extreme heat leading to increased mortality and morbidity for vulnerable people,

👉 Increased outbreak of food and/or waterborne diseases,

👉 Increased incidence of vector-borne diseases,

👉 Animal and human diseases, including zoonoses, appear in new areas (Avian or swine influenza, coronavirus),

👉 Development of harmful freshwater cyanobacteria,

👉 Increase in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases ollowing exposure to forest fire smoke, aeroallergens and air pollution,

👉 Increased extreme events (floods, fires, storms…) and associated death toll.

 

Limiting temperature rise to below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius is the goal of the Paris Agreement – a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on December 12, 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016.

🏡 Global warming: the impact on daily life in urban areas

Global warming also needs to be managed at the urban level where it has impacts on human health, livelihoods and infrastructure. Points of attention are:

👉 Managing heat islands and extreme heat that aggravate air pollution episodes and limit the functioning of infrastructures,

👉 Taking into account the economically and socially marginalized populations that are often the most impacted,

👉 Anticipate that infrastructure including transportation, water, sanitation and energy can be compromised by extreme events and that this leads to economic losses and impacts well-being.

🍃 What actions should be put in place to limit global warming?

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, halocarbons…). The origin of the emissions can come from:

  • The use of fossil fuels (energy production, industries, transport, residential and tertiary sector…)
  • Land use (agriculture, industry, livestock, residential areas…),
  • Deforestation and wood burning,
  • The use of (hydro)chlorofluorocarbons for refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

📌 Some actions to fight global warming.

Thus, here are some actions that can be taken at the city level and at the individual level:

👉 Promote the supply and use of soft modes of transportation (public transportation, bicycles, trains, walking…),

👉 Promote short circuits and products from a reasoned agriculture,

👉 Reduce food waste,

👉 Switch to healthy and sustainable food (flexitarian/vegetarian/short circuit…) in collective catering and at home,

👉 Adapting water and electricity consumption and heating to avoid waste,

👉 Increase the share of renewable energy use,

👉 Designing cities to reduce heat islands,

👉 Build/renovate for high energy performance buildings,

👉 Preserve the natural environment (limit deforestation, restore natural ecosystems, promote green spaces (carbon sinks) and priority areas for biodiversity (ZPB))

✅ The benefits of these actions for human health

Combating climate change through daily actions will improve the health of populations:

👉 Gentle modes of transportation promote physical activity,

👉 Changing the way we eat by favoring healthy products from short circuits promotes a balanced diet with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Now regular physical activity and a healthy diet contributes to reducing the risk of developing many chronic diseases (cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer …),

👉 Reducing heat islands helps reduce associated mortality and morbidity,

👉 Developing green spaces both promotes physical activity and is known to have a positive effect on mental health,

👉 Buildings with good energy performance improve the well-being of occupants.

Global warming is not to be underestimated, there are only 3 years left to limit it. Actions must be taken at every scale – global, governmental, city, business, individual – to stabilize the temperature increase by reversing the trend of greenhouse gas emissions and thus slow donw the warming.

At the same time, we must adapt to maintain a good level of health and well-being of populations in the current context where the impacts are already being felt. Preserving the environment means avoiding premature deaths and increased morbidity by ensuring better air quality, limiting extreme climatic events (heat waves, floods, fires, storms…), reducing water stress…

Sources :

https://www.ipcc.ch/reports/

https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg2/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGII_FinalDraft_FullReport.pdf

https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ 

https://unfccc.int/fr/processus-et-reunions/l-accord-de-paris/l-accord-de-paris 

 

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