NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 04

The climate crisis

Over 10,000 dengue cases have been reported from across the country, while 16 people have lost their lives in the current year. The epidemic in Pakistan is a dimension of extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change, which threatens to increase the number of people afflicted by disasters such as diseases, storms, floods and droughts in the world.

Explosive outbreaks of dengue fever have rapidly spread in countries across Asia, killing more than 1,000 people, infecting hundreds of thousands and straining hospitals packed with sick families, CNN reported. Images from Bangladesh show patients in teeming hospital wards, lying beneath mosquito nets under lurid electric strip lights. This is the worst outbreak Bangladesh has ever seen. Five times as many people were infected in August than the whole of 2018, and so far this year 57 people have died. It’s a similar story across the region. Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam have all reported higher than normal cases of the disease and deaths compared to last year. And the Philippines has declared a national dengue epidemic — 1,107 people have died there since the start of the year and more than 250,000 have been infected.

Scientists say hotter, wetter weather brought on by climate change has created ideal conditions for female mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Not only are there more mosquitoes, but the rapid urbanization occurring in many Asian nations means that susceptible populations are living in closer contact with disease-carrying insects. While it was once found in only nine countries, today the disease is endemic in more than 100 — putting more than half the world’s population at risk, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There have been numerous studies on the link between climate change and mosquito-borne diseases and experts say the climate crisis is playing a major role in dengue’s spread.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that rising temperatures are triggering more extreme weather events, and a warmer, wetter world could put us at greater risk of vector-borne diseases — those transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks or other organisms. One recent study suggested that one billion more people might be exposed to mosquito-borne disease by 2080 as temperatures continue to rise with the climate crisis. As the planet gets warmer, scientists say, mosquito-borne diseases will continue spreading farther north. A recent study found that rising global temperatures caused by the climate crisis could see the female aedes aegypti mosquito which carries dengue — along with other diseases such as chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika — migrate to areas where it was not endemic before, with Europe, the US, East Asia and parts of central America, East Africa and Canada seeing large increases in risk.

According to the Red Cross, two million people a week need humanitarian aid today because of the climate emergency, as extreme weather takes an “intolerable” toll in human suffering. The number of people in need of interventions will double in the next three decades – from 108 million a year today to 200 million – if governments fail to act, stretching international humanitarian relief efforts to breaking point and beyond, the global charity warned. Experts say costs would rise too: by the end of the next decade, the current contribution of between $3.5b and $12b a year from funders would need to rise to at least $20b a year, to keep pace with a predicted surge in the number of people afflicted by disasters such as storms, floods, droughts and other extreme weather events.

The estimates were made in a report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), entitled “The Cost of Doing Nothing,” presented to the UN. Yet with adequate spending, efforts to increase the resilience of vulnerable people and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the number of people caught up in climate-related disasters could be cut drastically, the report found. Timely adaptation to the likely effects of climate change, and lower levels of global heating, would mean just 10 million people would need humanitarian aid a year because of climate-related problems in 2050, a fraction of the 100 million afflicted today.

Experts warn that climate breakdown will create volatile social situations and large numbers of people could be forced to move within their countries and across borders – both near and far. Extreme environmental events and rapid change could also destabilise economies, leading to unemployment, pressure on resources, spiralling living costs and political and social unrest.

Natural catastrophes and devastating effects of heat-waves, floods, earthquakes and cyclones are posing serious threats to human survival on the planet due to rapid changing climate issues – causing risks of malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat strokes across the globe. According to a United Nations report, climate change has increased the global burden of diseases in the first decade of the current century and caused around 150,000 deaths worldwide. The diseases burden, which resulted due to climate change, had 88pc impact on children’s health. The report further stated that the worldwide documented health effects included changing ranges of vector-borne diseases: malaria, dengue, diarrhoea and respiratory disorders. These diseases are the major causes of increasing morbidity and mortality generating from extreme weather conditions across the globe.

If governments don’t take urgent action to tackle the climate emergency, rising sea levels, desertification and increasingly frequent extreme weather events will have potentially devastating effects on both the world’s poorest people and its wealthy nations. Globally, millions of people face a bleak future: being displaced from their homes and losing their livelihoods. It’s unimaginable that in such circumstances, resourceful, determined and sometimes desperate people won’t try to find better, safer places to work and raise their families.

Exerts say some of the measures needed to prevent disaster are relatively low-tech, and cheap to put in place. Early warning systems for floods and storms, and access to weather forecasts in remote regions can all improve preparedness. Restoring natural features such as mangrove swamps and wetlands can protect against coastal and river flooding, while regrowing tree cover on hillsides can prevent landslips. Experts say policymakers must start preparing for the consequences of climate change and its affect on the spread of infectious diseases.

Pakistan is the most vulnerable country due to climate change. Floods affected 1.6 million people and caused Rs10 billion economic losses to the country in 2010. Heat-waves in Karachi killed 1200 people in recent years. The number of dengue-affected people reminds it of urgent steps to stop ecocide.