Shanghai depends on water from the Huangpu River, which is connected to the heavily polluted Tai Lake. Photo by Jakub Halun.
From Woodruff Health Sciences Center
China has made significant progress increasing access to tap water and sanitation services, and has sharply reduced the burden of waterborne and water-related infectious diseases over the past two decades. Climate change, however will blunt China’s efforts at further reducing these diseases, finds a study in the latest edition of Nature Climate Change.
By 2030, changes to the global climate could delay China’s progress reducing diarrheal and vector-borne diseases by up to seven years, the study shows. That is, even as China continues to invest in water and sanitation infrastructure, and experience rapid urbanization and social development, the benefits of these advances will be slowed in the presence of climate change.
The study, led by Justin Remais, associate professor of environmental health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, provides the first estimates of the burden of disease due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene in a rapidly developing society that is subjected to a changing climate.
“Our results demonstrate how climate change can lead to a significant health burden, even in settings where the total burden of disease is falling owing to social and economic development,” says Remais. “Delays in development are especially concerning for China, which is investing heavily in improving health even as the impact of those investments is being countered by the effect of climate change.”
Creating an atmosphere for change