Filipino scientist cites rising diseases due to warmer temperature

CONCRETE action is needed now to address the climate crisis so that nations across the world, particularly in southeast Asia, can prevent the emergence of diseases, a Filipino doctor said on Friday.

In a virtual briefing, Renzo R. Guinto, chief planetary doctor of think-and-do tank PH Lab, said a planet vulnerable to the effects of climate change will lead to the rise of more illnesses amid the new normal brought on by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“A warming planet is conducive (to) the reemergence of all diseases and the emergence of new ones,” he said during the launch of the RISE-Southeast Asia Alliance for Health and Climate.

Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, are hotspots for emerging infectious diseases and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as well, Mr. Guinto said, citing data from Asian Scientist and the Multiple Climate Hazard Index.

Around 250,000 climate-related deaths are projected from 2030 to 2050, the World Health Organization (WHO) said six years ago. The causes of these deaths may be related to heat-related illnesses, diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition.

Mr. Guinto noted that these are but “gross underestimates” as they only cover diseases that could be quantified.

“We’re afraid of the COVID-19 numbers but these are the additional numbers that we expect from 2030 to 2050. We should start thinking about the health consequences of climate change in the years and decades to come,” he said.

Mr. Guinto also emphasized the predicament of the recent typhoon victims in the Philippines who had to choose between protection from climate-related diseases or health security from COVID-19.

On Thursday last week, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III urged the Climate Change Commission to “be more aggressive” in mitigating the impact of climate change in the country. — Angelica Y. Yang