A study published in The Lancet last week finds that climate change could account for more than 500,00 deaths in 2050 because it creates a dearth of food availability. As health professionals, how can we address this significant potential health threat looming on the horizon? Health leadership will be vital. Just as preventative care in medicine is always preferable to reactionary care, addressing the causes of climate change is better than dealing with the consequences. Climate for Health's partners and leaders are undertaking significant efforts to advance sustainability practices within our hospitals, clinics, offices, and facilities. Addressing sustainability issues within the health sector has the potential to substantionally reduce the impact that these institutions are having upon the climate and, therefore, human health. Considering we're aiming to improve the public's health, doesn't this make sense? We hope you'll join our efforts.
By Christina Procopiou I March 3, 2016
By 2050, global climate change will have made its mark on nutritional health. New research published March 2 in The Lancet finds that by making food less available, climate change could account for more than 500,000 deaths that year.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says climate change already has reduced crop yields. For example, in Brazil corn yields are down 8 percent, and in Russia wheat yield has dropped 14 percent. When crop yield goes down, food prices go up, as do a whole host of health problems. A study led by Marco Springmann from the University of Oxford is the first to estimate exactly how coming climate change will impact nutritional security, and the subsequent effects on diet and body weight—and in turn mortality—across the planet.
The researchers assumed a scenario where global air temperature in 2050 is about 2 degrees warmer than it was between 1986 and 2005. They first used an agricultural model to simulate what effects that change will have on food production and consumption. Then they used a health model to assess how these changes in food production and consumption will impact human health. Compared with a fictional world without climate change, in a world where climate change continues as predicted, where agriculture is crippled by more drought, heat, and flooding, each person would see 3.2 percent less food on their plates every day overall. In addition, by 2050, under that same climate change scenario, we can anticipate the average person will eat 4 percent fewer fruits and vegetables, and 0.7 percent less red meat. Red meat is bad for your health, so lowering consumption of beef globally is a good thing. But far less global consumption of red meat, however, couldn’t make up for the decrease in fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
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