Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, hurricanes, and heatwaves, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus. Speaking during a press briefing, Tedros emphasized that the climate crisis is now one of the major factors determining human health outcomes. He warned that if global warming continues, it could result in a wave of hunger, migration, and disease.
One of the regions already feeling the impact of climate change is the Horn of Africa. Tedros highlighted a prolonged drought and heatwave in the region, which has put great strain on local healthcare services. Countries in the region, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, recently experienced their worst drought in decades. This has resulted in nearly 60 million people becoming food insecure, with some countries seeing the highest levels of severely malnourished children in years. Even though the drought has given way to heavy rain and flooding, hunger levels are expected to remain high.
The latest data released by the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) indicates that the average global temperature reached a record-breaking 17.01 degrees Celsius (62.62F). This surpassed the previous record of 16.92 degrees. This increase in temperature further supports the concerns expressed by Tedros and other climate scientists about the impact of global warming and extreme weather events.
The effects of climate change are not limited to the Horn of Africa. Heatwaves have affected areas across the globe, from Texas to China to Antarctica. Climate scientists attribute these heatwaves to both overall global warming and a stronger-than-usual El Nino warm-weather pattern this year. El Nino is a cyclic weather phenomenon in which warm air is pushed away from the tropics in the Pacific Ocean, leading to temperature and rainfall changes worldwide. The warm phase of El Nino can result in extreme weather events, including hurricanes. Recent research has suggested that the intensity of El Ninos has increased due to the effects of climate change.
The predictions made by Tedros and the WHO highlight the urgent need for action to address climate change. The consequences of inaction are severe, with the potential for increased human suffering, displacement, and the spread of diseases. Governments and international bodies must prioritize measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy sources, and implement resilient infrastructure to mitigate the effects of climate change. Additionally, efforts should be made to support vulnerable communities and improve healthcare systems to cope with the increasing impact of extreme weather events. By addressing climate change head-on, we can work towards a healthier and more sustainable future for all.