COVID recovery poses dire climate, health risks: Lancet
Countries' fossil-fuel-powered COVID-19 recoveries will have long-lasting consequences on human health and risk worsening the food and water insecurity, heatwaves and infectious diseases already threatening billions globally, a major assessment warned on Oct. 21.
The Lancet Countdown is the largest annual study of the impacts of climate change on human health.
It found that up to 19 percent of Earth's land mass was affected by extreme drought in 2020 and warned that climate change posed a major threat to food security, which already affects more than two billion people.
Compared with the historic average, the global population of over-65s lived through 3.1 billion additional extreme heat days last year, it found.
Populations of 134 countries are now at greater threat from wildfires than at any time previously, and millions of farmers and construction workers are losing income because of the rising number of extremely hot days.
And climate change is creating ideal conditions for infectious diseases such as dengue fever, Zika virus, cholera and malaria across a far larger span of the globe than just a few decades ago and including Europe, it said.
"Climate change is here and we're already seeing it damaging human health across the world," said Anthony Costello, executive director of the Lancet Countdown.
"As the COVID-19 crisis continues, every country is facing some aspect of the climate crisis too."
The assessment found that the five years with the most areas affected by extreme drought have all occurred since 2015.
Disruption to the water cycle due to global heating shortens the time in which plants reach maturity, resulting in small yields putting ever-greater stress on food production.