The impacts of climate change manifest in a variety of ways: warming temperatures, precipitation changes, frequent severe weather events, and a rise in sea levels. These impacts affect everything around us, from our food and water to air quality and seasons.
Climate change and health risks:
Health risks from climate change will largely depend on the preparedness of our public health and safety systems in facing these new threats. Factors like age, gender, and economic status are also determiners of who stands most at risk from climate change.
Impacts on health from climate change will exacerbate based on geographical location, level of exposure to health threats, and having the means to adapt.
According to a WHO study, climate change is projected to increase mortalities by 250,000 between 2030 and 2050, largely due to its role in aiding the spread of diarrhoea, malaria, and malnutrition.
Who is most at risk from climate change?
In developing countries, the health risks are the greatest, but climate change also threatens the health of people living in countries like the United States. Risks are higher for certain groups, such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals belonging to poorer sections of society.
Curb the health impacts of climate change:
Environmental change is not going to slow down anytime soon, and it will continue to impact global populations unless we address public health concerns via proper channels and resources. One way is to educate yourself about the issues in public health by getting an online public health degree that is going to prepare you to start participating in community-wide health programs.
State and federal governments can ensure that local public health infrastructure is adequate by working with local public health entities.
Increasing awareness can also benefit local and tribal public health throughout the states. Educating the public on how climate change can potentially affect them can go a long way in helping them to take precautions against the threats.
The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health:
The following is a rundown of the impacts of climate change on human health:
Impacts of extreme weather events:
During extreme weather events, safety remains the biggest concern. Natural disasters upend existing infrastructures and leave people exposed to harm.
Extreme weather events happen worldwide and adversely affect societies and economies. Typhoons, hurricanes, floods, heat waves, fires, droughts, and snowstorms are just a few examples of extreme weather events.
Our planet has had extreme events before, however, recent climate changes could be amplifying their intensity and frequency.
The adverse effects of extreme weather are magnified when critical infrastructure is disrupted, such as water and sewerage systems, roads, and hospitals. As many of these systems are interconnected, a failure in one may lead to the failure of others.
When a storm knocks out a community’s electrical grid, its water supply may also get affected.
Effects of air contamination:
The change in climate can also affect air quality, which in turn has negative effects on human health. Air pollutants, ozone depletion, suspended fine particles, smoke and dust, are carried from one place to another, polluting air quality. Airborne allergens also respond to changes in seasons.
Droughts are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change, which can leave homes, buildings, and schools exposed to dust and dust-borne pathogens, like bacteria and fungi.
Breathing in poor air quality can negatively affect human health. Air pollution or airborne allergens can directly affect our respiratory system and cardiovascular system or worsen existing conditions.
Those most vulnerable to negative effects of air quality are children, older adults, people with asthma, and those who are immunocompromised.
People adapt to their local climate over time. Scientific evidence shows that sharp drops and rises in temperatures can make people susceptible to health risks associated with both.
Temperature extremes can cause direct health problems. An inability to control internal temperature can lead to heat cramps, heat stress, heat stroke, and hyperthermia.
Excessive heat can also aggravate chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory problems.
In extreme cold, the body is challenged to retain heat, causing cardiovascular stress and illnesses, such as hypothermia. An individual’s vulnerability to cold weather events can also be exacerbated by other factors, such as housing, age, or health status.
Foodborne illnesses and nutrition:
Climate change impacts our global food system in direct and indirect ways, which poses new threats to our food safety and health. Approximately, 1 in 10 people in the world develop foodborne illnesses, and over 420,000 people die from food-related illnesses each year.
Severe droughts or flooding, caused by climate change, can introduce pathogens and toxins into the crops. It is possible to get foodborne illnesses from eating contaminated food, such as salmonellosis or norovirus infection.
The food quality also suffers from climate change effects, as it reduces the nutritional value of crops and worsens malnutrition and the availability of protein and essential minerals.
Mental health and well-being:
Environmental changes can have an effect on our lives, mental state, and overall perceptions of individuals and communities. In addition to causing physical injuries, illnesses, and mortalities, climate change can also impact our mental well-being.
Temperature extremes, weather events, and natural disasters can all lead to mental health problems, such as stress and depression. Moreover, climate change can also have other psychological effects, such as eco-anxiety—the constant worrying about environmental disasters and about the future of the planet.
In recent studies, researchers have found that extreme weather and other weather-related events can adversely affect an individual’s mental health, causing depression, PTSD, sleep problems, social anxiety, irritability, and substance abuse.
For example, severe hurricane damage to resources, people, and property can result in depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Extreme drought can result in depression or increase incidences of suicide if a person loses livelihood, home, or family. Those who are compelled to migrate due to climate-related events may also suffer from mental health problems.
Climate change affects human health in both direct and indirect ways. Heat waves, rising sea levels, droughts, and floods are all potentially harmful climate change events. The worsening air pollution levels cause respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. Human health is often an overlooked dimension of the risks posed by climate change but, as this article highlights, the two cannot be more interlinked.