New York: The UN health agency has asked policymakers to consider the threat climate change poses to public health before setting up their priorities for action and investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted the health dimension of the issue at the three-day “Climate Change -- Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions” conference in Copenhagen.
Based on research, WHO estimates that around 150,000 deaths now occur in low-income countries each year, with young children making up almost 85% of these excess deaths, due to the effect climate change has on crop failure, diarrhoeal disease, malaria and flooding.
Health hazards from climate change are diverse, global and difficult to reverse, according to WHO. They range from increased risk to safety from extreme weather events, to the effects of global warming on infectious disease and sea level rises leading to salinisation of land and water sources.
The agency contends that feasible improvements to the environment could reduce the burden on global disease, a large part of which is caused by energy consumption and transport systems, by more than 25%.
Outdoor air pollution accounts for 800,000 deaths annually around the world, traffic accidents for 1.2 million, physical inactivity for 1.9 million and indoor air pollution for 1.5 million, WHO says.