Main author: Geir Gunnlaugsson
Institution or Company: Faculty of Sociology, Anthropology and Folkloristics
Introduction: The Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030 emphasize interventions to curb air pollution (SDG3), reliance on clean fuels and technologies (SDG7) and minimize fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in cities (SDG11). The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 called for global efforts to keep the average temperature from rising 2°C by the end of the century. Here the aim is to highlight the potential impact of climate change on health but particularly child health.
Methods: Published literature on climate change was explored. It included annual reports since 2015 from the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change, and the State of Global Air Report 2020. Particular attention was given to peer-reveiwed publications on climate change and children, and the role of health professionals.
Results: Air pollution is the 4th leading risk factor for death globally (in total seven million annually), thus exceeding the impact of other well-known risk factors for chronic diseases such as obesity, high cholesterol and malnutrition. Yet, the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is unevenly spread across age-groups, with children and the elderly disproportionally affected. About half a million neonatal deaths out of 2.4 million annually are attributable to PM2.5, ozone, and household air pollution. Further, children will suffer from climate change through higher mortality and morbidity rates caused by infectious diseases, e.g., vector-borne, water and foodborne and respiratory pathogens, worse mental health, skin disease, and adverse immunological, endocrinological, metabolic and neurological effects.
Conclusion: Greenhouse gas emissions with associated climate change with higher average temperatures and air pollution threaten overall global health improvement in the last few decades. Mitigation of ongoing climate change needs concerted efforts at the individual, family, community, country, regional and global level. Health professionals have an essential role to play and in particular those who work with children.