There's still time


Madrid / 04 November 2019

Floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves… The potential impact of climate change is enormous and affects us all, and poses a considerable emerging threat for public health. There is overwhelming evidence and data to confirm that we human beings are bringing about the end of our own species. The repercussions are already being felt: an increased number of deaths due to heatwaves, ever more acute food shortages, the spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases... This is only the start, although we can still reverse a part of this situation.
Corporate Affairs Department
The fight against climate change is the most important challenge facing the 21st century. The seriousness of its effects on health are becoming more and more manifest. It threatens all aspects of the society we live in, and the constant delays in tackling the scale of the problem heighten the risk to people's lives and health. Breathing normally in large cities in periods of acute pollution, the availability of drinking water, and a decent diet are no longer within easy reach of some of the world's population. The gap between what should be done and what is actually being done is widening every day. This is once again being flagged up by the UN, which highlights that the clock is ticking on the chance to achieve the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement, namely reducing atmospheric pollution.
Fighting climate change is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. Its harmful effects on human health are already visible
Human activities destabilize the climate and also have a direct impact on health problems. Burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change, and among the major sources of air pollution, leading to multiple health problems. According to the latest report published by the WHO, exposure to air pollution causes seven million deaths worldwide each year. If the goals of the Paris Agreement were to be achieved, almost one million lives a year could be saved around the world by 2050. The aim of this report is to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change on health. Possible actions that should be implemented include proven effective interventions in healthcare systems and improvements in water and food supply systems. It is a fact that currently only 3% of healthcare resources are invested in prevention, and only 0.5% of multilateral funding is dedicated specifically to healthcare projects.
Climate change poses a serious threat to the well-being of new generations

Climate change and mental health

Climate change can affect human health both directly and indirectly according to the WHO. This is a serious threat that even compromises the well-being of future generations. If humankind continues on its current path and misses the WHO's goal to limit global warming to less than 2°C, coming generations will suffer irreversible and lasting damage to their health at every stage of their lives. We see these well-known effects as normal, but they are becoming increasingly frequent. Situations of extreme heat make it difficult to sleep, trigger mood changes, reduce healthy behaviors such as doing exercise, and ultimately prompt the appearance of the much-publicized anxiety. All this ultimately leads to serious mental disorders. 

According to the report published by the WHO, the direct impacts on health include:

  • Physiological effects as a consequence of exposure to higher temperatures
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Cardiovascular ailments
  • Mental disorders
  • Lesions, diabetes, cancer
  • Septicemia, intestinal obstruction and kidney failure
  • Death from climate disasters such as drought, floods, heatwaves, storms and forest fires

Climate change also has indirect effects on human health caused by ecological changes such as food insecurity, precarious access to drinking water and the spread of infectious diseases. Society's responses to climate change represent a risk to health too, and range from the displacement of the population and reduced access to healthcare services, through to mental disorders triggered by extreme climate events. The loss of culture – and in many cases of identity – may last a lifetime.

Change begins with us

There are many policies and individual options that can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and produce significant collateral benefits for health. In this case, according to Pascale Delecluse, director of the National Institute of Universe Sciences at the National Center for Scientific Research: “The first measure we need to take must be individual and educational. Climate change is not simply a question of multinationals that pollute. It is heating, transport, things that concern each and every one of us. Climate is not at the mercy of the fates. Humankind has the power to act for good or for evil. And this gives us a renewed responsibility. It is not a question of making doomsday prophecies but of facing up to a changing reality”. The change begins with each of us, by making the best use of the time we have left to think globally. Only a reasonable use of clean energy, reducing our waste and controlling polluting traffic will preserve the planet as we know it. A healthier world is still possible. Let's start changing now.

Only the reasonable use of clean energy, the reduction of our waste or the control of polluting traffic will preserve the planet as we know it


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