News / Health

WHO: Climate Change Brings New Health Threats

A villager carrying a child crosses a flooded area in the Jorhat district, in the Indian state of Assam, August 25, 2014, where the latest heavy rains have caused landslides and floods.
A villager carrying a child crosses a flooded area in the Jorhat district, in the Indian state of Assam, August 25, 2014, where the latest heavy rains have caused landslides and floods.
Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday that major killer diseases will spread and health problems will worsen with climate change.  

The WHO, which is holding the first global conference on health and climate in Geneva, urged nations to act quickly to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, which lead to climate change.  

Although some countries could see localized benefits from global warming -- cold countries could experience fewer winter deaths due to more temperate weather as well as increased food production -- the WHO says overall health effects are likely to be overwhelmingly negative.  

Maria Neira, director of the Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Department at WHO, says seven million people die prematurely every year because of air pollution, but that number can be cut.  

“We can reduce dramatically non-communicable diseases, cardiovascular diseases, heart disease, respiratory diseases, by promoting, for instance a more sustainable, low-carbon society where instead of using very pollutant and solid fuels," Neira said, "we will move into a more sustainable energy consumption and, therefore, by doing so, we will obtain plenty of benefits for our health.”  

The health community is working to improve surveillance to control infectious diseases and she says deadly diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue are highly sensitive to weather and climate.

Recent WHO figures show that climate change already causes tens of thousands of deaths every year from shifting patterns of disease and extreme weather events, such as heat waves and floods.

Climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths every year between 2030 and 2050 due to heat exposure, diarrhea, malaria, and childhood under-nutrition.

Alistair Woodward, the coordinating lead author of the health chapter of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says there is opportunity for positive change.

“Transport systems, which produce maybe a quarter of the greenhouse emissions, are unhealthy and damaging to the environment in many ways," Woodward said. "If we could increase the use of active transport, our estimates are putting people on bikes, the benefit cost ratio is maybe 10 to one…Air pollution…If we put in practice what we know about ways of reducing black carbon emissions, diesel filters, plain cook stoves, for example, then we could probably save around two million premature deaths a year.”  

The WHO notes that climate change also has serious economic consequences. The U.N. agency says the direct damage costs to health is estimated to be between $2 billion and $4 billion a year by 2030. 

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
August 28, 2014 5:20 PM
Climate change is a threat of humanity but can prevernir and anticipate its effects

by: mememine69 from: Toronto
August 28, 2014 8:49 AM
Besides being an excuse to hissy fit hate neocons, climate blame was a lazy copy and paste news editor's dream come true. Times up girls. Is science also only 95% sure the planet isn't flat as well as being a laughable 95% certain that Human CO2 "could" flatten it? Exaggeration and misguided concern and 32 years of needless CO2 panic and CO2 death threats to billions of innocent children has made fear mongering neocons out of all of us. Nice work.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs