Climate disasters affected almost 90 million people in 2015

The DKV Observatory of Health and Environment highlights the impact of natural disasters on world health and analyses the long-term effects

More than 60,000 people are killed every year as a result of natural disasters. The rise in the sea level and the increasing intensity of meteorological events have a serious impact on our lifestyle. Over the next decades, the variability of rainfall will affect the supply of fresh water, posing a threat to hygiene and increasing the risk of illnesses such as Diarrhoeal disease, which causes the deaths of 760,000 children under five years old every year. 92% of natural disasters are related to the climate, and nearly 90 million people were affected last year by extreme weather events.

Estos y otros datos se recogen en el informe 'Cambio climático y salud’ del El Instituto DKV de la Vida Saludable, a través de su Observatorio de Salud y Medioambiente, que pretende concienciar a la población acerca de esta realidad, coincidiendo con la celebración del Día Internacional para la Reducción de los Desastres Naturales, que tendrá lugar el próximo 14 de octubre.

Extreme temperatures are more dangerous in winter

Cold snaps are proportionately more dangerous that heat waves. In Spain, for example, for every day of cold snaps registered between 2001 and 2009, there were 3.5 deaths; whereas for every day of heat wave, 2.9 people died. Madrid and Andalusia are the autonomous communities that have suffered the most in recent years from cold snaps. Navarre, however, is the Spanish community most exposed to risks arising from high temperatures.

Last year was the hottest year on record, and the high temperatures affected over one million people all over the world. More than eleven heat waves were detected, with France being the country most affected by extreme temperatures, which caused the death of 3,275 French people. India and Pakistan also suffered from these heat waves, and registered respectively 2,248 and 1,229 deaths.

There is a maximum average temperature for each area of the planet. When heat waves increase temperatures and these exceed the threshold, the mortality risk increases. In Spain, the highest temperature threshold is 40ºC, and this is registered in Córdoba, Sevilla and Málaga. A Coruña, however, is the area with the lowest temperature threshold (26ºC).

The European Environment Agency estimates that in 2050 there will be nearly 120,000 additional deaths per year due to heat waves. Action by human beings on the planet has duplicated the number of heat waves, and this will cause an increase in their intensity and duration in the next few years. If preventive measures are not taken, the economic impact will reach 150,000 million euros.

Floods affected 27.5 million people last year

Climate change has caused an increasing variability and irregularity in rainfall. In 2015, 152 flood episodes were registered, caused by the fast melting of glaciers, the rise in the sea level, inadequate land planning and the increase in extreme rainfall. Up to 16.4 million people were affected by this natural disaster in India, more than half of the total world population affected by floods.
Floods, specifically, have both short and long term effects on people's health. The most serious effects are:
  • Injuries, traumatism and proliferation of vector-borne infections
  • Deaths from drowning and increase in water-borne diseases
  • Damage to homes, goods and services and food production: the prevalence of malnutrition, which already causes 3.1 million deaths a year
  • Displaced persons
  • Anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression
  • Damage to infrastructures and health and emergency services
  • Contamination of drinking water

Droughts will cause nearly 200 million climate-induced migrations in 2050

Droughts are the extreme meteorological event that have had the greatest effect over the last year. In 2015, there were 32 large-scale droughts, which affected over 50 million people all over the world, and which forced millions of people to migrate from their homes in search of more healthy living conditions.

It is forecast that Spain will see an increase in extreme weather conditions. Predictions estimate a general increase in temperatures in Spain, which will represent a reduction of between 10 and 30% of average annual rainfall. This will increase the duration and intensity of droughts by the end of this century.

Forest fires, a limitation on industrial activities, a reduction in agriculture and livestock capacity, changes to habitat and ecosystems and water restrictions are some of the most significant effects arising from droughts.

You will find the full report in this link