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Feature Climate and Health

How hot weather kills: the rising public health dangers of extreme heat

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 14 July 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1741

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Re: How hot weather kills: the rising public health dangers of extreme heat

Dear Editor

The feature article "How hot weather kills: the rising public health dangers of extreme heat"[1] covered the incidence of heat stress, parthenogenesis, risks among vulnerable populations in terms of persons' age, co-morbidities, level and duration of exposure etc. and the mortality statistics from various countries across the globe. It dwelt upon the various strategies that have been adopted by different nations like EuroHEAT project, Heat Health Action Plan (HHAP), Action Alliance for Heat Protection Berlin project etc. and its results. In the entire discussion there were references to the latest report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has sounded an ominous warning for the very survival of living organisms in this planet earth. The impending extreme weather events - floods, droughts, heatwaves and their consequential impacts on ecosystems essential for the health of life forms - are at risk of irreversible change is too frightening to be imagined [2]. The IPCC’s diagnosis is clear: climate change is the leading threat to health and well-being globally, and our window to act is rapidly closing. The only appropriate response is immediate, unequivocal action [3].

For proactive action against climate change, 'the rich nations' lack of urgency to form climate adaptation fund is violation of principles of equity, when poor nations are more vulnerable for the damages [4]. It is fact that eleven years after developed countries committed to delivering US$100 billion a year to help poor nations deal with climate change, they have fallen short of the target both in terms of quantity and, more importantly, quality of the finance earmarked for climate action. This shortfall, experts say, will disproportionately affect South Asia [5]. Also, 'despite their promises, developed countries have not committed new and additional funds to developing countries to help them deal with climate change, found a new report released on June 23. Instead, developed countries are diverting funds meant for development – including those meant for poverty eradication – for the climate cause. The June 23 report by the Climate Change and Resilience Information Centre (CARE), an international humanitarian aid organisation, found that these countries have diverted as much as $103 billion in this manner. This is a problem because it takes funds away from activities that would have helped countries achieve specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which are also key to tackling climate change in a just and equitable manner' [6].

Worsening environment due to global warming is aggravated so much in British Columbia that Dr. Kyle Merritt, an emergency physician working there, has used a new name for a disease entity called 'Climate change' [7] as a cause of death of an elderly woman who died under extreme heat. This terminology has already set off a new debate in the medical fraternity and may take time for universal acceptance in medicine. But what about the billion-dollar business of insurance companies across the world, who have so far shielded their liabilities behind the specific clause called the 'Act of God'. This helps them to avoid making payment for damages for injuries caused by natural events like flood etc. for example. It would be interesting to watch how this new diagnosis 'climate change' unfolds itself in health insurance and tort jurisprudence.


1. Sally Howard, Geetanjali Krishna. How hot weather kills : the rising public health dangers of extreme heat. BMJ 2022;378:o1741
2. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. Climate Change 2022 : Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.
3. Editorial. An unequivocal call to climate action for the health sector. BMJ 2022;376:o680
4. Editorial. Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health. BMJ 2021;374:n1734
5. Lou del Bello. Little climate finance for South Asia, rich nations break promise. Dec 10, 2020.
6. Athira Perinchery. The Wire. Despite Talk of New Funds, Rich Nations Are Only Diverting Development Aid.23 June 2022.
7. Stuti Mishra. Independent. Canadian becomes world's first patient to be diagnosed as suffering from 'climate change'. 08 November 2021.

Prof.Lakhiram Murmu,
Medical Superintendent,
Dr.Sushimta Murmu,
Assistant Professor Psychiatry ,
Al-Falah School of Medicine and Research Centre,
Dhauj, Faridabad, Haryana, India

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 July 2022
Lakhiram Murmu
Medical Superintendent
Dr. Sushimta Murmu
Al-Falah School of Medicine and Research Centre and Hospital, Dhauj, Faridabad, Haryana, India
Al-Falah School of Medicine and Research Centre and Hospital, Dhauj, Faridabad, Haryana, India