Climate change’s increasing impact on human health has been a major cause of concern in recent years. Now, a new study shows that climate change could reduce six months from the average human lifespan and that women and individuals in developing nations are disproportionately affected.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Climate, examined average temperature, rainfall, and life expectancy data from 191 countries from 1940 to 2020. Along with measuring the isolated impacts of temperature and rainfall, the researchers also developed a first-of-its-kind composite climate change index, which combines the two to assess the severity of climate change, a Press Trust of India (PTI) report said.
The findings showed that, in isolation, a global temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius is linked to an average human life expectancy decrease of around 0.44 years, or about six months and one week. Whereas an increase of 10 points in the composite climate change index indicates a reduction in the average life expectancy by six months, the researchers said.
"The global threat posed by climate change to the well-being of billions underscores the urgent need to address it as a public health crisis, as revealed by this study," study author Amit Roy said in a press statement.
The study highlights that "mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and proactive initiatives are essential to safeguard life expectancy and protect the health of populations worldwide," Roy added.
The researchers pointed out that temperature and rainfall, two important factors associated with climate change can have acute and direct impacts such as natural disasters like flooding and heat waves and indirect but devastating including respiratory and mental illnesses, the researchers. The researchers hope that the composite climate change index will standardise the global conversation about climate change, and become a usable metric for the nonscientific public, the PTI report said.
Currently, climate change’s impact on people’s life expectancy is worrying for researchers. Last year, the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC), in its annual Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report, found that air pollution leads the list of top five threats to life expectancy in India. In Delhi, the most populous and the most polluted city, each resident would live about 11.9 years longer if the air were clean, the report revealed.
To combat the impact of climate change, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing environment are of particular importance, the new study’s researchers added in the statement.