Palma, in a coastal area and also a large city prone to a heat island effect. | Jaume Morey


At a Thursday conference on health and climate change at Son Espases Hospital in Palma, biologist Cristina Linares said that she was not going to "sweeten a critical situation". "The future looks bad. Children born in 2020 are seven times more exposed to heat waves, three times more to floods and two times more to wildfires."

Linares, the co-director of the unit for climate change, health and the urban environment at the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid, urged authorities and society to "work to mitigate and adapt to changes", stressing that "the problem is the speed that climate change is acquiring". Although there have always been periods of drought or floods, over the past 50 years these have happened more and more frequently.

The Balearic Islands, she observed, are one of the most affected areas. "Climate change is going 20% faster than in the rest of the world." Under the Paris Agreements signed in 2016, some 200 countries committed to global temperature not rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. In the Balearics, however, this is 1.7.

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A contributor to the UN's sixth global climate change assessment report, Linares explained that geographical location is one of the most determining factors for this increase. Coastal areas or those with extreme climates, such as the North and South Poles, are more vulnerable to climate change, as also are big cities because of a heat island effect.

A factor to take into account is vulnerability of certain population groups to climate change. The elderly constitute one group, but since the 2003 heat wave there have been specific programmes designed to control the impact on the elderly. The active population, Linares said, is now being affected more, mainly men between the ages of 30 and 50, especially those who work outdoors, such as construction workers. Children are also not exempt. In 2020, the mortality rate from extreme weather events multiplied by 15 in the most vulnerable areas and affected, above all, children and women.

Fires, hurricanes, heat waves and droughts "affect fishing, agriculture, the quality of water that is vital for survival and can lead to more diseases". "The climate crisis is mainly a health crisis. Even if we stopped emitting gases, which is impossible, we would continue to feel the effects of climate change for decades." One of the consequences of global warming is "the redistribution of tropical diseases such as dengue and Zika". "We now have endemic outbreaks caused by mosquitoes that couldn't have occurred before because they didn't have the ecological niche."