Climate change kills in Europe, but affects women and low-income people more

The climate crisis is not a hypothetical scenario in the distant future.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
12 May 2024 Sunday 16:36
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Climate change kills in Europe, but affects women and low-income people more

The climate crisis is not a hypothetical scenario in the distant future. Temperatures are increasing in Europe twice as much as the global average and affecting health with impacts that are not equitable between countries or between people. One of the effects is that the mortality rate from excess heat is increasing twice as much in women as in men. This is concluded by the second regional Lancet Countdown report on health and climate change in Europe, published today in The Lancet Public Health.

The warning of this work, coordinated by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), is clear: climate change is here, in Europe, and it kills.

According to the study, heat-related deaths have increased in most of Europe, with 17 additional deaths per 100,000 inhabitants between the periods 2003-2012 and 2013-2022; We went, on average, from 51 to 68 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

Europe's climatic suitability for some pathogens and vectors has also increased. The risk of West Nile virus outbreaks has grown by 256% (from 1951-60 to 2013-22); and the number of suitable regions in Europe for leishmaniasis has increased from 55% (2011-2020) to 68%, with an expansion towards the north.

The authors also highlight that, in 2021, almost 60 million people experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in Europe, and that of these, almost 12 million (considered additional) can be attributed to the increased number of heat wave days and drought months. .

“But the negative impacts of climate change are not experienced equitably,” says Catrhyn Tonne, ISGlobal researcher and co-director of The Lancet Countdown in Europe in an interview for La Vanguardia, adding: “Some regions and people, for example, For example, women or those who live in economically disadvantaged areas are more affected.”

The report reveals that southern Europe tends to be more affected by heat-related illnesses, forest fires, food insecurity, drought, mosquito-borne diseases and leishmaniasis. Furthermore, while the increase in heat-related deaths has been 9% on average in Europe, in the south it has been 11%.

On the other hand, northern Europe is equally or more affected by vibrio and ticks, which can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis, according to the study.

Looking at the effects within countries, the authors conclude that groups that have suffered historical or current discrimination are those that may be most severely affected by climate change.

Heat-related mortality has been twice as high in women, with 21.5 additional deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, while in men the figure is 13.8. Furthermore, they are also the ones who accumulate a higher number of deaths attributable to an unbalanced diet.

The authors attribute this difference to the fact that the combined health effects are unequally distributed among populations due to differences in exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, which often reflect patterns of social inequality.

Consequently, ethnic minorities, indigenous populations, low-income communities, migrants and displaced people, sexual and gender minorities, are the groups that have the greatest probability that climate change will have the most serious effects on their future climate health.

Likewise, the study denounces that there is little commitment to aspects of environmental equity in policy indicators and, in Tonne's words, that Europe, a global region that has shown leadership in the fight against climate change, is still not moving as much. fast enough to prevent health consequences.

“The figures show that progress towards reducing greenhouse gases is being too slow,” says Tonne, who explains that the reduction needs to accelerate if we want to prevent health dangers from worsening, and concludes: “ The good news is that by putting health at the center of plans to reduce greenhouse gases, we can have large and immediate health benefits.”