The Adverse Effects of Climate Change on Health in Africa and Asia

Melting of the polar ice caps will be just one of the negative impacts of climate change.  Source: Roxanne Desgagnés - Unsplash

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 150,000 annual deaths in low-income countries are brought about by the adverse effects of climate change. Temperatures and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather conditions including floods cause water logging, which in turn increases the chances of contamination and the spreading of diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and dengue. In Africa, air pollution causes around 712,000 annual deaths; a figure that vastly outruns deaths caused by malnutrition (391,000) and unsafe water (275,000).

It is also estimated that temperatures across Asia will increase by an incredible 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, if we don’t begin to better address the effects of climate change, posing serious concerns that relate to agriculture, land and marine biodiversity, trade and health. So very often we focus on key indicators, such as BMI, to track the state of our health, but it’s time to open our eyes and realize that overall health concerns are greatly affected by the world around us and it’s time for serious positive action.

Heatwaves that can kill across Asia

According to an article published by The Guardian, the levels of humid heat caused by global warming will kill even healthy individuals if we don’t start doing something to reverse the issue today. It is believed that millions across south Asia will be affected within the next few decades.

Analysis shows that if what’s known as the “wet bulb” temperature (WBT) reaches 35C, the human body will be unable to cool down naturally through sweating, even when seeking refuge in the shade. If the WBT climbs to these dangerous figures, healthy individuals will die within six hours. Asian countries, particularly India, will be those most at risk as their carbon emissions continue to rise.

Flooding in Indonesia

At the other end of the scale, we will begin to see more and more people suffer from the health risks of intense flooding and rainfall. Around 50% more rainfall is expected to hit Asia in the coming years. Coastal and low-lying areas are those pinpointed to be at the greatest risk of flooding, with 19 out of 25 cities expected to suffer the consequences of a one-meter sea-level rise. Indonesia will be the country to suffer most from coastal flooding, with around 5.9 million lives affected annually before 2100.


Addis Ababa charters for a low carbon future

In some of the most impoverished areas suffering from climate change health issues, projects are being put in place to benefit both the health of our planet and the human population. One such example is Addis Ababa, a city in Ethiopia that was recently awarded the C40 Cities Award for transportation thanks to the positive impact of its light rail transit system. The estimated cumulative emission reduction, thanks to the implementation of the rail system, is set to reach 1.8 million tCO2e by 2030.  

The light railway is the first clean initiative of its kind to improve public mobility in the horn of Africa, helping commuters begin and end their working day in more comfort and keeping the air cleaner at the same time. The Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy reveals a plan for Ethiopia to become a carbon neutral, green economy by 2025.

The future

Quite simply, the future is now. It’s in our hands and we’re doing far too little about it. Nature is powerful and she demands respect. If we continue to abuse our planet as we’ve been doing, we will be the ones to suffer the consequences.