Germans face exposure to air pollution and heatwaves as health effects of climate change grow
Clean Energy Wire
Outdoor air pollution contributed to over 44,800 premature deaths in Germany in 2016, more than 8,000 of which were linked to coal, says a policy briefing on Germany based on the Lancet Countdown 2019 report on health and climate change. Germany has the highest CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in Europe and it is estimated that economic losses and health costs from fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) amounted to 20 billion euros in 2016. In Europe, these costs were only exceeded by Italy. At the same time, the German population has also become more exposed to heatwaves. 6 million more people over the age of 65 were exposed to heatwaves in 2018 compared to in 2015. At a presentation of the policy briefing, Sabine Gabrysch, professor for climate change and health, highlighted how climate action could improve public health even within a legislative period. "If we shut down coal-fired power plants and make our cities more bicycle-friendly, this will not only benefit the climate," she said. Climate action could reduce the number of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer and cut health care expenses.
The Lancet Countdown 2019 identifies children's health as the most affected by climate change globally, since children are the most vulnerable to threats like malnutrition and certain diseases. In a business-as-usual scenario, a child born today will experience a world that is 4°C warmer than the pre-industrial average. "Without accelerated intervention, this new era with its rapidly changing conditions will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives," the report says.