Global ‘fossil fuel addiction’ is deadly, doctors warn

Eweather xtreme from climate change causes hunger in nearly 100 million people and increases heat-related deaths by 68% in vulnerable populations worldwide as global “fossil fuel addiction” declines public health each year, the doctors reported in a new study.

Worldwide, the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and biomass constitutes air pollution that kills 1.2 million people a year, including 11,800 in the United States, according to a report Tuesday. in the prestigious medical journal Lancet.

Marina Romanello, chief executive officer of Lancet Countdown, said: “Our health depends on fossil fuels. “We are seeing a persistent addiction to fossil fuels that not only increases the health impacts of climate change, but also at this time in addition to other concurrent crises we are facing. we are facing globally, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. , the cost of living crisis, the energy crisis and the food crisis triggered after the war in Ukraine”.

In the annual Lancet Countdown, a study on climate change and health, nearly 100 researchers globally highlight 43 indicators that climate change is making people sicker or weaker Go, with a new look at hunger added this year.

“And the health impacts of climate change are increasing rapidly,” says Romanello.

Read more: How climate change and air pollution affect children’s health

In praising the report, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said more bluntly than doctors: “The climate crisis is killing us.”

The new analysis in the report blamed 98 million self-reported cases of hunger around the world in 2020, compared with 1981-2010, as “extreme heat days increased in frequency and intensity”. due to climate change”.

Researchers looked at 103 countries and found that 26.4% of the population experienced what scientists call “food insecurity” and in a simulated world with no impact of climate change would be only 22.7%, Romanello said.

“Can I say that little by little food insecurity is caused by climate change? Of course not. But we think that in this complex network of causes, it’s a very important contributing factor, and it’s only going to get worse,” said pediatrician Dr Anthony Costello, co-chair of Lancet Countdown. and head of the University of London’s Institute of Global Health.

Computerized epidemiological models also show an increase in annual heat-related deaths from 187,000 a year between 2000 and 2004 to an annual average of 312,000 a year, Romanello said. past five years.

Read more: Why overheating plus pollution is a deadly combination

When there’s a heat wave, like the record-breaking 2020 heatwave in the Pacific Northwest or the UK heatwave this summer, emergency room doctors know by the time they arrive at the hospital “we’re going through a very difficult time.” difficult change,” said study co-author Dr. Renee Salas, a Boston emergency room physician and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Air pollution from burning coal, oil and gas also pollutes the air, causing about 1.2 million deaths a year worldwide from small airborne particles, scientists say. The 1.2 million figure is based on “enormous scientific evidence,” says Harvard’s Salas.

“Burning gas in cars or coal in power plants can trigger asthma in children and cause heart problems,” says Salas.

“Prescribing an inhaler will not address the cause of an asthma attack for a young boy who lives next to a highway, where cars are producing dangerous pollutants and climate change is taking a toll,” Salas said. increase smoke, pollen and ozone pollution.

University of Louisville professor of environmental health Natasha DeJarnett, who co-authored the study, said both air pollution and heat-related deaths are bigger problems for the very old and the very young, and in particular. the poor.

Sacoby Wilson, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the report, said the Lancet’s study has strong implications for and directs the impact of climate change on health.

“People are dying the way we speak. Droughts, desertification, no food, floods, tsunamis,” Wilson said. “We are seeing what happened in Pakistan. What you see is happening in Nigeria. “

Both Wilson, an emergency room physician and professor of medicine at the University of Calgary Dr Courtney Howard, who was not involved in the study, said the report authors were correct in calling the problem fossil fuel addiction, similar to harmful fuel addiction. drug.

The Lancet report shows that the number of people dying from air pollution and heat is increasing, but people are still “continuing their habitual behavior despite known harms”, which is the definition of addiction, Howard speak. “So far, our treatment of fossil fuel addiction has been ineffective.”

“This is not a rare cancer that we don’t have a treatment for,” Salas said. “We know the treatment we need. We just need willpower from all of us and our leaders to make it happen.”

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