21.11.2018 change 21.11.2018

Institute of Environmental Protection: Climate change directly affects our health

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Climate changes and the resulting extreme weather phenomena, such as a significant temperature increase, have a direct impact on our health, says Krystian Szczepański, director of the Institute of Environmental Protection - National Research Institute.

Szczepański explains that a few years ago, the institute carried out an analysis of studies on the impact of extreme temperatures on the residents of Kalisz. According to the results, high day and night temperatures have a direct impact on our health and life. Children, the elderly, the chronically ill, for example those suffering from respiratory and circulatory diseases, are particularly vulnerable.

Director of the Institute of Environmental Protection emphasises that according to research, the number of deaths in Kalisz increased due to high temperatures.

According to the institute`s analysis, the group most at risk because of heat waves, namely children and the elderly, constitutes nearly 25 percent of the city`s population and the majority of this group (almost 72%) live in downtown areas and apartment blocks. In these areas there are also fewer green areas, trees, which significantly mitigate unfavourable thermal conditions.

The document indicates that the analysis of deaths showed a clear link between their number and the number of days with temperature exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. It was particularly noticeable in the years 2006, 2010 and 2015, when periods with maximum temperature exceeding 30 degrees persisted with short breaks for 19, 10 and 22 days, respectively.

Referring only to the temperature, the authors of the document note that in the region of Kalisz one should expect a significant increase in temperature in the future, in particular maximum temperature increase and an increased number of hot days and lengths of hot periods. They add that the number of inhabitants aged over 65 will also increase, who, next to children, are characterized by greater sensitivity to heat.

According to Szczepański, scientific data and meteorological observations show that the temperature on Earth is increasing. In the beginning of this year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency, reported that 2017 was the second or third warmest year since the start of the measurements, and the hottest one without the additional heat caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon in the Pacific. The average temperature of the Earth in 2017, similarly to two years earlier, was 1.1 degrees Celsius higher compared to the pre-industrial era. According to the Paris Agreement of 2015, 1.5 Celsius is considered a "safe" limit. Record-high in terms of temperature rise was 2016, when the increase amounted to 1.2 degrees Celsius.

According to the Climate Coalition and Heal Poland report published in June, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change is directly responsible for over 140,000 deaths per year, primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to 250,000 deaths per year, caused for example by malaria or heat stress.

"Our meteorological observations clearly show that the surface temperature of the Earth is increasing, and the worst observed aspect is that this increase is particularly intense this century" - emphasises Szczepański.

Director of the Institute of Environmental Protection adds that in addition to the health aspect, adverse climate changes also affect the economy, including agriculture. Szczepański points out that the water resources are shrinking, which was especially visible this year during the drought.

That is why the Institute is preparing a project co-financed by the EU, "Knowledge base on climate change and adaptation to its effects and channels of its dissemination in the context of increasing the resilience of the economy, environment and society to climate change, and counteracting and minimising the effects of extraordinary threats".

The aim of the project is to provide the necessary knowledge on climate change and assess its impact in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation activities in sectors and areas sensitive to climate change. The project is nationwide, addressed in particular to the central administration making decisions related to the selection and implementation of adaptation measures related to the effects of climate change. A significant part of the project is also addressed to local governments. The results of the project and its products shared via the project website will also be useful for scientific institutions and the general public. During the implementation of the project, particular emphasis is placed on carrying out extensive training and educational campaigns in this area.

According to the strategic adaptation plan prepared in 2013 for sectors and areas sensitive to climate change by 2020, with a 2030 perspective, in the first decade of the 21st century, losses caused by extreme weather phenomena in Poland cost PLN 54 billion. The document states that if Poland fails to take appropriate measures, the effects of climate change will cost us another 86 billion zlotys by 2020, and nearly 120 billion zlotys by 2030. The authors of the strategy warn that extreme phenomena in Poland will most likely occur with increasing frequency and they will affect more areas of the country. (PAP)

author: Michał Boroń

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