Climate change will kill more Italians and Greeks than Syrians in 2050, as soaring temperatures destroy crops and disrupt food supplies, new research published in medical journal The Lancet has found.
About 124 Greeks will die for every million of its population in 2050, making it the third worst hit country per capita globally behind China and Vietnam, according to the report published yesterday (3 March).
Italy is 12th in the study’s analysis of 155 countries with 4,630 deaths in total. Syria, in contrast, will lose just 320 people, 840 fewer than Greece.
Other EU countries including the UK, France, Germany and Italy will also suffer greater death tolls both in numbers and per capita than Syria in 2050.
Poland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg also rank higher than the wartorn country, and other nations such as Libya and Congo.
The study, led by Dr Marco Springmann from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, said that climate change will harm food supplies so drastically that half a million people will die worldwide in 2050 alone.
Nearly half of those deaths will happen in China (247,910), with 230 Chinese succumbing per million of the population.
The study is the first of its kind to assess the impact of climate change on diet composition and bodyweight, and to estimate the number of deaths they will cause in 155 countries in 2050.
Dr Springmann said “Changes in food availability and intake also affect dietary and weight-related risk factors such as low fruit and vegetable intake, high red meat consumption, and high bodyweight.
“These all increase the incidence of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, as well as death from those diseases.”
France is 23rd in the list of total deaths with 1,960, the UK 26th with 1,510 fatalities, Romania 30th with 1,330 deaths, Germany 34th on 1,200, and Greece 36th with 1, 160 deaths.
Crops in the Mediterranean will be badly hit by climate change. But non-Mediterranean countries will also suffer because they import from those and other climate vulnerable nations.
Germany, France and the UK ranked highly in the number of deaths because of their larger populations, but, in per capita terms, are lower in the list of 155 countries.
While Greece is third, Italy seventh and Romania eighth on the per capital list, France is 56th, the UK is 68th, and Germany 83rd.
The study revealed that, unless action is taken to reduce global emissions, climate change could cut the projected improvement in food availability by about a third by 2050.
That would lead to average per-person reductions in food availability of 3.2% (99 kcal per day), in fruit and vegetable intake of 4.0% (14.9g per day), and red meat consumption of 0.7% (0.5g per day).
The findings predict that these changes could be responsible for around 529,000 extra deaths in 2050, compared to a future without climate change in which increases in food availability and consumption could have prevented 1.9 million deaths.
Today (4 March) EU environment ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss how the bloc will build on the landmark Paris Agreement, struck last year at the UN Climate Change Conference.
That international deal set a global warming limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational 1.5 degree goal.
But the European Commission has been criticised after leaked documents showed that the executive did not plan to up the ambition of its 2030 climate and energy targets, despite the historic pact.
On Wednesday (2 March), a major new coalition of businesses, cities, trade unions and NGOs, called on EU leaders to act on the Paris Agreement. The goals agreed in Paris require the EU leaders to increase the 2030 and 2050 climate targets, they said.
Lies Craeynest, Oxfam International’s EU policy advisor on food security and climate change, said, “Changes in agricultural production in Europe, as well as climate impacts across international food supply chains, will have a heavy toll in Europe too.
“As EU environment ministers gather in Brussels on Friday to discuss the impact of the Paris Agreement on EU climate and energy policy, this should be a warning call that there is no time to waste in ramping up EU climate ambition, as lives are on the line, globally, but also in Europe.”