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Barcelona, May 2015.- Global experts have analyzed the impact of climate change on human health at the Human Health in the Face of Climate Change: Science, Medicine and Adaptation international conference at CosmoCaixa Barcelona, called together by the New York Academy of Sciences, and the “la Caixa” Foundation and Biocat, through B·Debate.

Experts calculate that the temperature will rise some 4° C between 2070 and 2100 as a result of climate change and that the increase in extreme temperatures will cause between 30,000 and 40,000 more deaths each year in Europe starting in the 2030-2040 period, between 500 and 600 of which will be in the city of Barcelona. “In the cold phase, there are more deaths than in the hot phase, but this pattern is changing,” said Xavier Rodó, ICREA research professor and founding director of the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences (IC3).

“Climate change doesn’t cause disease but magnifies the effects of many conditions,” explained WHO Director of Strategy Chris Dye, who led the Ebola response team during the international crisis last summer. This expert added that 2015 is a “crucial” year for climate change, as the COP21 summit will be held at the end of the year in Paris (France). “The decisions made this year will impact the coming five years,” warned Dye.

Approximately 8 million people currently die each year as a result of air pollution, according to Chris Dye. The changes in climate patterns can aggravate chronic cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. The most at-risk populations are those under 15 years old and, above all, those over 75.

Other examples of how climate change affects human health include diseases like diarrhea caused by lack of hygiene, drought and famine, or heat waves and pollution, which affect mainly people with chronic diseases. Regarding the other consequences of climate change, alterations in weather patterns lead to changes in agricultural production and food crises that cause migratory waves, some heading to Europe. This displacement is tied to the environmental disruption of the temperature, droughts and floods, among other issues.

The main hurdles in mitigating the effects of climate change are the limited awareness of the current and future effects of climate change on human health, and the limited ability to predict when or where these consequences may come about, said Dye.

Emerging diseases

The appearance of emerging tropical diseases in developed countries is one of scientists’ concerns, as it poses new challenges that these countries must prepare for. One example is the outbreak of Chikungunya late last year in the Caribbean, which has spread to numerous countries in South America, with approximately 850,000 diagnosed cases.

“Without being alarmist, we have to be prepared,” warned Rodó regarding the presence of Chikungunya virus vectors here at home. Passenger transit can foster a migratory exchange with countries where the Chikungunya fever has already spread. If the virus arrived, it would be in the coming summer period –specifically between May and September when the tiger mosquito (the Chikungunya virus vector) is most active and critical for the human population. Climate change has an impact on the life cycle of parasites, mosquitos and human populations, which are closely linked to environmental conditions.

Chris Dye reminded participants that developed countries play a key role in preventing these diseases around the world, which will affect mainly developing countries. For example, diarrhea and pneumonia are two of the most important causes of infant mortality in the poorest regions of the planet. This is why this expert called for investment in health systems and programs to properly address this issue.



Nuria Peláez                                                      Irene Roch

Head of media. Biocat                                    Communication Department. ”la Caixa” Foundation

T. +34 606 816 380                                           T. 93 404 60 27 / 669 457 094                              


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