A new global agreement to combat climate change, due to be reached in December in Paris, is more important for everyone’s health than many people realise, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Tuesday.
Apart from the direct impact, disasters like heatwaves and floods increase the risk of infectious diseases spreading, while air pollution in cities causes diseases such as lung cancer and strokes, said Maria Neira, the head of public health at WHO.
The WHO estimates that 7 million people a year die as a result of air pollution, which is made worse by rising temperatures, especially in cities.
«Human health is connected to (the effects of climate change) to a level that people might not understand correctly,» Neira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from Geneva.
«If the countries agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … all of those interventions to tackle the causes of climate change will result in benefits for our health.»
Tackling the causes of climate change offers a path to healthier lives by reducing the spread of diseases and limiting the risk of disasters, which can destroy people’s access to food, water and shelter, Neira said.
The WHO sees climate change as the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.
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