Professor Lea Berrang Ford, Priestley Chair in Climate and Health, has called for “an entire transformation of the healthcare system” to cope with the combined impacts of climate change, an ageing population and social care needs.
Speaking on Paul Hudson’s Weather Show on BBC Radio Leeds, Prof Berrang Ford pointed out the threats from climate impacts on health, including the spread of diseases and extreme weather.
A report in The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change from February 2018 produced some startling figures, quoted by Paul Hudson on the show: 157 million more people exposed to heatwave events in 2017 compared with 2000; 18 million more people exposed to heatwave events in 2017 compared with 2016 and 153 billion hours of labour lost to extreme heat in 2017 – an increase of more than 62 billion hours.
“Those numbers are striking even to me – and those are only for three years and only for heat impacts in the UK. So you can imagine that if you look at the entire range of impacts you can have for health beyond a three year time horizon, and even more so if you look globally and how they affect the UK, you start to get a sense of the really enormous scale of the climate challenge and its impacts on health,” Prof Berrang Ford said.
Emphasising the positives, she underlined the health benefits of tackling climate change. “Diet, lifestyle, behaviour – all the changes we need to make are good for climate change. There are lots of opportunities; it’s a win-win.”
Professor Berrang Ford, who joined the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds from Canada in March 2017, spoke prior to heading off to Poland for the UN climate conference COP24, which ends today.
“My main role in Poland will be to drive innovation to come up with ways to monitor how we are adapting to climate change – so this is not on the emissions side, but to start addressing the question of how do we know if we are doing enough on climate impacts,” she said.
Image: Met Office
who spoke prior to heading to Poland for the UN climate conference COP24, which finishes today.