Health risks surge in UK due to climate change

23 Dec 2023 09:00am
Shoppers, some wearing a facemask walk along Regent Street in London on Dec 28, 2021. - (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP)
Shoppers, some wearing a facemask walk along Regent Street in London on Dec 28, 2021. - (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP)

LONDON - Adverse impacts on health due to extreme weather and vector-borne disease risks could increase in the United Kingdom (UK) under a warming climate, according to a report published on Monday by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The report, written by 90 experts, is based on climate projections using a high-end warming scenario or a "worst-case scenario" of approximately 4.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100.

"Our changing climate poses one of the greatest health security and societal challenges, impacting everything from the air we breathe to the quality and availability of our food and water," Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at UKHSA, said in a statement, reported Xinhua.

The report estimates that there will be up to 10,000 deaths in the country by the 2050s as a result of extreme heat.

Based on a high-end warming scenario, the report anticipates a substantial surge in heat-related deaths, with an increase of over 1.5 times by the 2030s and an over 12-fold rise by the 2070s.

It also states that vector-borne diseases, such as chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses, could become transmissible in London and other parts of the UK due to Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquitoes) and Culex mosquitoes.

According to the report, under a high-warming scenario, the UK will become suitable for new domestic mosquitoes by the 2040s and 2050s, while most of Wales, Northern Ireland, and parts of the Scottish Lowlands may see potential establishment by the 2060s or 2070s.

The report also warns that more people will be at high risk of flooding in the future due to changing rainfall patterns.

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It is projected that the UK's dependence on food from highly climate-vulnerable countries will increase, potentially affecting the stability of food supplies, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables.

"Action is needed now to adapt our policies, environments and our behaviours to secure health, well-being and livelihoods," Oliver said, adding that much can be done to "avert and prevent" the impacts of climate change on health.

UKHSA, an executive agency sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care, is responsible for planning, preventing and responding to external health threats.

This year is set to be the hottest year on record in human history, according to a report published by the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) at the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. - BERNAMA