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Forget terrorism, climate change is the real killer

By Peter Muiruri | Jun 2nd 2016 | 2 min read
By Peter Muiruri | June 2nd 2016
Urban air pollution. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million deaths were attributable to deteriorating environment conditions, or 23 per cent of the total. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

You are more likely to die from the effects of climate change than global conflicts, says a new report.

Titled Healthy Environment, Healthy People, the report was compiled by the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep), World Health Organisation, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions.

It was presented at the United Nations Environmental Assembly that met in Nairobi last week. The multi-sectoral report estimates that environmental degradation and pollution cause up to 234 times as many premature deaths as occur in conflicts annually, highlighting the importance of a healthy environment in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The report found that in 2012, an estimated 12.6 million deaths were attributable to deteriorating environment conditions, or 23 per cent of the total.

This is three times the current population of Nairobi. Delegates were told how climate change is exacerbating the scale and intensity of environment-related health risks. Estimates from WHO indicate that 250,000 additional deaths could occur each year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, as a result of climate change.

According to the report, a simple act such as preparing a meal for the family can prove fatal due to inhaling poor quality air. “In some countries, preparing a meal is a major risk to health because of indoor air pollution. Some 4.3 million deaths are attributed to household air pollution arising from cooking with solid fuels. Nearly all of these deaths occur among people living in low- and middle-income countries,” it said, noting that three billion people, mostly in rural communities, rely on solid fuels such as firewood and coal.

Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, said by depleting the ecological infrastructure of the planet and increasing our pollution footprint, we incur an ever growing cost in terms of human health and well-being. “From air pollution and chemical exposure to the mining of our natural resource base, we have compromised our life support systems,” he said.

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