According to a World Health Organisation estimate, climate change could already be causing 150 000 deaths a year. This number could double by 2030. The phenomenon is indeed threatening all the factors that affect Man’s health: a mild climate, clean water, enough food and even, shelter.
Malaria, dengue fever: these ravaging diseases are linked to the climate through mosquitoes which are the vectors. Because of the effects of global warming, these insects will migrate to regions that have become hotter and more humid. The risk of infection will increase in Southern European countries like Portugal and Italy. But Africa – where malaria already kills 1 million people every year – will be worst hit. The disease will threaten almost a third more of the continent’s population before the end of the century.
Malnutrition will worsen. Because of the higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere, plants like cassava root, a staple food for a billion people by 2030, will be less productive and less rich in protein. More frequent droughts and floods will also reduce agricultural yields. Moreover, they will make it hard to access clean water. As a result, the number of cases of cholera and other diseases will increase from 2 to 5% by 2020 in countries with low incomes. The disease is already killing 2 million children every year.
Rich countries, poor countries: the difference in sanitary conditions will increase. The number of deaths due to cold waves in temperate zones should decrease but the number of deaths linked to heat waves will increase. In towns, heat and a lack of wind will leave more pollutants in the air and thus cause cardiorespiratory diseases. However, the richer populations in Europe, United States and the Far East will be protected by their public health systems. Poorer populations will feel the full brunt of global warming even though they contributed to it very little.