Skip to main content

Climate change is already a disaster to health, doctors say

Climate change is already a disaster to health, doctors say


‘We see really catastrophic impacts that are very distressing to us’

Share this story

This picture, taken on June 25th, 2019, in Clermont-Ferrand, shows a personal care assistant holding the hand of an elderly person as she visits her house to help her to avoid heatstroke and dehydration during a heatwave.
Photo by Thierry Zoccolan / AFP via Getty Images

Dangerously high temperatures put hundreds of thousands of people’s health and livelihoods at risk every year, and a major new report shows how much the threat has already grown in a warming world. Among other alarming statistics, heat-related deaths among older adults grew by nearly 54 percent between 2000 and 2018, the report finds. 

The sweeping health and climate change report was published today in the prominent medical journal The Lancet. The report was produced by more than 100 experts from academia, the World Health Organization, and other UN agencies. The report offers proof that climate change will not only reshape life in the future, but it is actively endangering lives now. Health care providers already see themselves treating a climate crisis.

“We don’t want our health system to be overwhelmed.”

Doctors held back tears during a briefing with reporters when asked to reflect on the results of the report and how it connected to their experiences in emergency rooms as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world. “It’s been a really, really hard year,” said Jeremy Hess, an emergency medicine physician and co-author of the study, before taking a long pause to collect himself. “We see really catastrophic impacts that are very distressing to us.” Heatwaves and other natural disasters were particularly dangerous this year, as emergency responders and health care systems struggled to handle the pandemic. Experts fear that climate-related disasters could similarly overwhelm hospitals in the future. 

“We really implore people to learn with us from our experience this year, and try and avoid the worst,” Hess said. “We don’t want our health system to be overwhelmed by climate change impacts, and we know what we need to do to stop this.”

The report, while covering a sweeping range of health threats from hunger to pollution, included brand-new findings on how many more lives have been taken by extreme heat. The number of heat-related deaths globally in 2018 reached an alarming 296,000 — and that’s just among people over the age of 65, who are among the most vulnerable to heat illness. China, India, Japan, and central Europe had the most deaths among older adults. In the US, heat-related mortality has nearly doubled for this demographic over the past 20 years, reaching a record 19,000 deaths in 2018. 

Heat-related mortality has nearly doubled for this demographic

People who work outside are also more vulnerable to heatwaves. Staying inside during a heatwave is often a healthier choice. But not working when it’s too hot outside comes with costs, too. US workers in the service, manufacturing, agriculture, and construction sectors likely lost $45 billion in earnings in 2015, the report estimates. Globally, people worked 302 billion hours less in 2019 because of scorching temperatures — 103 billion more hours than were lost in 2000. 

Rising temperatures have also triggered more wildfires, which poses another set of health threats. Globally, the risk of people being exposed to a wildfire grew in a majority of the world’s countries in recent years when compared to the period between 2001 and 2004. The US saw one of the biggest increases in risk, with a 19 percent rise in daily exposures to wildfires. That means more people are breathing in more soot and pollution from the blazes. 

Fortunately, other studies have shown how taking ambitious action on climate change can save thousands of lives. “We don’t want to have regret that we didn’t do everything we could in order to prevent what we know is coming,” says Renee Salas, an emergency medicine doctor and lead author of a policy brief accompanying today’s new report. “That’s why we’re pleading [with people] to listen to the science. Let the science guide us, and prevent the most catastrophic outcomes that could lie ahead if we don’t do something.”

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago The tablet didn’t call that play by itself

External Link
Russell BrandomTwo hours ago
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 19 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.

External Link
Emma RothTwo hours ago
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.

External Link
Andrew J. HawkinsTwo hours ago
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
James Vincent3:17 PM UTC
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.

Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
The Verge
James Vincent3:03 PM UTC
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.

External Link
Elizabeth Lopatto2:41 PM UTC
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.

The Verge
Richard Lawler2:09 PM UTC
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.

The Verge
Richard Lawler1:00 PM UTC
Green light.

Good morning to everyone, except for the intern or whoever prevented us from seeing how Microsoft’s Surface held up to yet another violent NFL incident.

Today’s big event is the crash of a NASA spaceship this evening — on purpose. Mary Beth Griggs can explain.

David Pierce12:54 PM UTC
Thousands and thousands of reasons people love Android.

“Android fans, what are the primary reasons why you will never ever switch to an iPhone?” That question led to almost 30,000 comments so far, and was for a while the most popular thing on Reddit. It’s a totally fascinating peek into the platform wars, and I’ve spent way too much time reading through it. I also laughed hard at “I can turn my text bubbles to any color I like.”

Thomas Ricker10:44 AM UTC
The Simpsons pays tribute to Chrome’s dino game.

Season 34 of The Simpsons kicked off on Sunday night with an opening credits “couch gag” based on the offline dino game from Google’s Chrome browser. Cactus, cactus, couch, d’oh! Perfect.

Thomas Ricker7:29 AM UTC
Table breaks before Apple Watch Ultra’s sapphire glass.

”It’s the most rugged and capable Apple Watch yet,” said Apple at the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra (read The Verge review here). YouTuber TechRax put that claim to the test with a series of drop, scratch, and hammer tests. Takeaways: the titanium case will scratch with enough abuse, and that flat sapphire front crystal is tough — tougher than the table which cracks before the Ultra fails — but not indestructible.

Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.