Extreme weather puts hospitals at high risk of shutdown, says study ahead of COP28 Health Day
Over 5,000 hospitals in India, the highest number in any country, are at high risk of shutdowns due to extreme weather events if fossil fuels are not phased out by the end of the century, according to a study by XDI. Worldwide, one in 12 hospitals face a similar risk. The study analysed the impact of climate hazards on over 200,000 hospitals globally and found that 71% of the hospitals at risk were in low- and middle-income countries. The report called for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels to mitigate the risks to global health.
At least 5,120 hospitals in India, the highest in any country, would be at high risk of shutdowns due to extreme weather events if the world fails to phase out fossil fuels by end of the century, a study said on Saturday on the eve of the inaugural Health Day at the ongoing COP28 summit in Dubai.
Worldwide, one in 12 hospitals face a similar risk, the study “2023 XDI Global Hospital Infrastructure Physical Climate Risk Report” by physical climate risk analysis firm XDI (Cross Dependency Analysis) said.
The report analysed the impact of six climate hazards — coastal inundation, riverine flooding, surface water flooding, forest fire, extreme wind and cyclone wind — on over 200,000 hospitals around the world.
Of the total hospitals evaluated for the study, 16,245 were identified as at risk in a high emissions scenario, double the number of hospitals currently at risk, the study said. Of this, 71% hospitals were in the low- and middle-income countries, furthering the impact of extreme weather events on vulnerable communities.
“Climate change is increasingly impacting the health of people around the world. What happens when severe weather results in hospital shutdowns as well? Our analysis shows that without a rapid phase out of fossil fuels, the risks to global health will be exacerbated further, as thousands of hospitals become unable to deliver services during crises,” said Dr Karl Mallon, director of science and technology, XDI (Cross Dependency Initiative).
The UAE, which holds the COP28 presidency this year, has put special emphasis on health at this year’s conference.
Ahead of the summit, which began on November 30, the World Health Organization said that negotiators must recognize their responsibility “for the health of populations worldwide”.
South East Asia, which is currently bearing the heaviest burden of the rapidly worsening climate, despite low contributions to historical emissions, will be among the hardest hit regions, the analysis pointed out.
“With high emissions, almost 1 in 5 hospitals (18.4%) in South East Asia will be at high risk of total or partial shutdown by the end of the century,” it said.
In a high emissions scenario, 3,357 hospitals — a third of all of the high-risk hospitals in the world — will be in South Asia. This number could increase to 5,894 by 2100, the analysis found.
India, currently the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, would be the country with most hospitals at risk of damage from extreme weather events by the end of the century in a high emissions scenario, with 5,120 hospitals at high risk. For the analysis, researchers included 53,473 hospitals in India.
The impact is “nothing less than catastrophic”, Eloise Todd, executive director, Pandemic Action Network, said.
“The impact of climate change on health systems has hidden in plain sight. The human impact of 1 in 12 hospitals shutting down – and up to 1 in 5 in South East Asia – would be nothing less than catastrophic. The chain reaction that climate change puts into action must be stopped at the source by ending the burning of fossil fuels,” Todd said.
The study said that limiting warming to 1.8°C with a rapid phase out of fossil fuels would halve the risk to hospital infrastructure compared to a high emissions scenario.
The world is currently headed for 2.5 to 2.9°C warming over the pre-industrial period, the United Nations warned in its Emissions Gap 2023 Report on November 20.
“The most obvious thing to dramatically reduce this risk to hospitals, and keep communities safe, is to reduce emissions,” Mallon said.