Terminal Stages

Although obesity and other diseases of a high carbon lifestyle currently dominate [6],[5], the health burden of carbon toxicity to the climate is escalating rapidly and may prove far more devastating.

A feature of climate toxicity is that it does not relate to the severity of an individual’s carbon addiction. Indeed, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that the majority of the 150,000 deaths so far attributed to climate change each year have occurred in non-addicts – namely children in the developing world. [1]

The mechanism of harm is diverse, since climate events may either impact directly, as in heat exhaustion or destruction by storms and flooding, or indirectly through changes to land productivity, water supply or the spread of disease.

Globally, the WHO identifies the most important effects currently as:

  • •  malnutrition
  • •  diarrhoea
  • •  vector-borne disease (malaria)

However, in 20 years' time, the Global Humanitarian Forum estimates there will be over 75 million climate displaced people [4].  The UCL Lancet Commission identified climate change as the "biggest global health threat of the 21st century" [3].

In the short to medium term, the UK Department of Health expects:

  • •  respiratory deaths and illness from increased ground-level ozone
  • •  food-borne disease* with warmer summers (diarrhoea)
  • •  contamination of drinking water due to flooding and warmer conditions (diarrhoea)
  • •  heat-related deaths
  • •  increases in skin cancer [2]


* Implies an ongoing supply of food, uncompromised by natural disasters, famine or conflict at source.