‘Climate change will steal your future. Shrink your carbon footprint: improve your health!’
That’s the World Health Organization’s message to the world’s youth.
Everybody will be affected by climate change. Those living in the industrialized world will get off relatively lightly: food and other goods will become more expensive; extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods will take their toll; respiratory and cardiovascular disease will rise; infectious diseases will become more prevalent in some areas; insurance costs will soar; and infrastructural services like water supply and drainage will be under increasing stress. But this is nothing compared to what will be experienced in much of the developing world, where most people have little or no health care.
Disease and mortality: The intensity and geographic range of infectious and water- or insect-borne diseases like cholera and malaria will expand with higher temperatures, increased rainfall and sea-level rise. At present, for example, there are some 250 million cases of malaria each year, mostly among children in sub-Saharan Africa: this is expected to more than double by 2080. There will be more opportunities for cholera to take hold as floods spread and warmer waters encourage bacterial growth. Heat waves, like the one that claimed 70,000 lives in Europe in 2003, will become more frequent. And there will be more deaths from unexpected events like landslides, floods and freak storms.