The climate crisis will determine the lifelong health of today's children, doctors warn, noting that global warming is already causing damage.
Children are particularly vulnerable, and a global team of researchers say that rising temperatures means the bacteria that cause deadly diarrhea will thrive, while poorer crop yields could lead to greater malnutrition.
Lancet's annual health and climate change defense monitors the impacts of global warming on health. Like children, older people are particularly vulnerable to heat waves because they are less able to regulate their temperature and fluid balance.
The authors found that 220 million more people over 65 years were exposed to heat waves in 2018 compared to 2000. Europe is particularly at risk, according to the report, due to the large number of older citizens living in large, warm cities.
The 2019 report, which coincides with the raging fires in Australia, also reveals that human exposure to fires has doubled since 2000. Not only do fires cause death and health damage, they also have significant economic and social impacts.
Hugh Montgomery, a professor at University College London who is co-chair of the Lancet Countdown, said: "Our children recognize the climate emergency and demand action to protect them. We must listen and respond. This year the accelerating impacts of climate change have become clearer than ever. The highest recorded temperatures in Western Europe and fires in Siberia, Queensland and California have caused asthma, respiratory infections and heat stroke. "
Nick Watts, executive director of the Lancet Countdown, said: "Children's bodies and the immune system are still evolving, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental contaminants. The damage done in early childhood lasts a lifetime. Without urgent action by all countries, climate change will bring about defining health for the whole generation. "
The report is being prepared by 120 experts from 35 institutions, including the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Yale and Cingua universities.
The study follows 41 indicators, including the spread of communicable diseases. It has been found that, fueled by global warming, the possibility of dengue fever being transmitted by mosquitoes in 2017 was the second highest recorded since 1950, while nine of the 10 most suitable transmission years have occurred since 2000. is the fastest growing infection worldwide, "Watts said. "It's called throne fever because it's incredibly painful."
The report found that 2018 is the second-best year on record for the spread of cholera bacteria, which cause much of diarrheal disease and wound infections worldwide. Watts said the first natural cases of encephalitis caused by ticks in the UK were registered in October. "This is a disease that we know is moving as a result of climate change."
The report said that infants were most severely affected by malnutrition and that as temperatures rose, the ability of many cereals to produce full yields has declined in the last 30 years.
The report examines human exposure to fires for the first time. "Globally, there is an increased exposure," said Elizabeth Robinson, co-author and professor at the University of Reading. (Other studies have shown no increase in the number of fires.)
Coal power plants need to be removed worldwide and the journey shifted to public transportation and cycling, the report said. Robinson said urgent action is needed to reduce agricultural emissions from people eating seasonal plant-based diets. The report states that UK greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to 40% of the electricity sector's emissions.
Robinson said the technology exists to tackle climate change and that the action makes sense economically, even on health grounds alone, especially because fossil fuel air pollution cost trillions of dollars. Today's elections were "completely political", she said.
Stella Hartinger, from the University of Cayetano Heredia in Peru and author of The Lancet Countdown, said: "The way the world chooses today will irreversibly shape the future of our children. We have to listen to the millions of young people who went on a wave of strikes in emergency schools. "