A troubling report by climate risk analysis firm Cross Dependency Init/iative revealed that one in 12 hospitals could shut down worldwide by 2100 because of extreme weather. The company analyzed more than 200,000 hospitals around the globe and found that roughly 16,245 risk a full or partial closure without an immediate reduction in planet-warming pollution.
XDI found that the risk of damage to hospitals from natural disasters has risen by 41% since 1990 as a result of the overheating of the planet.
According to the findings, the number of high-risk hospitals will double by 2100 (compared to 2020 numbers) if steps aren’t taken to rapidly phase out dirty energy sources such as gas and oil. Many hospitals will become uninsurable at this risk level, forcing them to shut down or relocate.
While some hospitals can use adaptation strategies to lessen the impact of extreme weather, that isn’t always possible in low- and middle-income countries that can’t make the investment. According to the assessment, 71% of the hospitals that could be high-risk by 2100 are located in these regions.
In Southeast Asia, nearly one in five (18.4%) facilities — the highest percentage of hospitals in the severe risk category — could face a partial or full closure by 2100 if pollution doesn’t diminish.
“Governments have a duty to populations to ensure the ongoing delivery of critical services. For individual governments not to take action on this information, or for the global community not to support governments in need, is blatant disregard for the wellbeing of their citizens,” Dr. Karl Mallon, director of science and technology at XDI, told The Guardian.
Why are possible hospital closures concerning?
If thousands of hospitals across the globe have to shut down or reduce services, it will greatly threaten patients’ health and safety. While some patients could be moved to nearby hospitals for care, that can lead to overcrowding, causing poorer treatment outcomes and strain on hospital staff.
Rising temperatures and extreme weather events are already impacting human health in various ways, such as increasing the prevalence of infectious diseases, injuries, respiratory illnesses, and cardiovascular problems.
If pollution remains high, these diseases will likely become more widespread. As the world grapples with health care staffing shortages, closing hospitals because of natural disasters will only make a dire situation worse.
What’s being done about it?
Despite the worrisome news, it’s not all doom and gloom. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that growth in solar and wind power is outpacing that of dirty energy sources, which will help curb pollution.
Individuals can help cool the planet by switching from a gas-powered car to an electric vehicle, installing solar panels, or buying an energy-efficient heat pump to replace radiators or air conditioning units — or both.
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