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Climate change could cause 10,000 deaths a year by 2050s, warns UKHSA

Climate change could cause 10,000 deaths a year by 2050s, warns UKHSA

Climate change could lead to as many as 10,000 extra deaths in the UK every year by the 2050s, stark new modelling has suggested.

In a worst-case scenario where temperatures rise by 4.3C, the UK could experience a twelvefold rise in heat-related deaths by 2070, the report by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned.

With world leaders working to thrash out a climate deal at the COP28 summit in Dubai, the UKHSA has highlighted how climate change is likely to bring with it significant public health as well as environmental challenges.

Tropical diseases such as dengue fever or the Zika virus could become established in the UK by the 2040s to 2050s as disease-carrying mosquitoes spread, the report, Health Effects of Climate Change (HECC) in the UK, warns.

More people will be at high risk of flooding in future because of changing rainfall patterns, the report adds.

“The greatest health impacts of flooding in the UK are on mental health: people who experience flooding are at higher risk of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder,” the report explains.

The UK’s dependence on food from highly climate-vulnerable countries is also projected to increase, potentially affecting the stability of food supplies, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Climate change is now the context in which we will need to protect health from environmental hazards and infectious diseases and will determine future risks to health including new challenges such as wildfires and droughts and growing problems such as antimicrobial resistance or future pandemics,” said Professor Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at the UKHSA.

“And we must understand that whilst everyone will be at some risk from adverse health impacts from climate change, the impacts will vary at individual level and the most disadvantaged both here in the UK and around the world will be disproportionately affected.

“While we are already experiencing some of these impacts, it is very important to understand that many of the anticipated adverse health impacts of climate change in the UK are still avoidable through mitigation and adaptation and that there are other benefits to health to be gained, therefore rapid action is critical to avoid the most severe potential scenarios outlined in this report and realise other benefits to health from mitigation and adaptation measures,” she added.

Workplaces may need to be one area where interventions are targeted to mitigate and minimise the effects of heat risk and temperature-related mortality, the report argues.

Climate education is also likely to need to be embedded into health, care and public health practice, it argues. “Climate change will have widespread and potentially profound impacts on health, care and public health practice, with implications for the next generation of practitioners,” it says.

“Public health agencies and professionals can support emergency planning and response, undertake health impact assessments and advise on climate-health risks for their population, conduct needs assessments to highlight and address climate vulnerabilities, and contribute to long-term and coordinated planning in terms of infrastructure, emergency response, and continuity of health and social care services,” it adds.



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