We all are witnessing how climate change is affecting humanity. Climate change, the primary cause of air pollution, has been wreaking havoc worldwide. Changes in weather and climate patterns are impacting human health. Hurricanes are getting wetter and stronger with rising ocean temperatures, leading to indirect and direct deaths. Climate changes affect health’s social and environmental determinants- safe drinking water, clean air, secure shelter, and sufficient food. Climate change affects the wellbeing of humans through decreased air quality, more extreme weather events and wildfire, and diseases transmitted through food, water, and insects.
Climate change is impacting health in many ways, including by leading to illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events like storms and floods, heatwaves, the disruption of food systems, mental health issues, and water-, vector-, food-borne diseases. The climate crisis will likely undo the last 50 years of progress in global health, poverty reduction, and development and further widen existing health inequalities within populations if we do not improve the current situation.
Did you know what could be the impact of climate change on our future generations?
The World Health Organization says that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is likely to cause approx. 2500000 additional deaths per year from heat stress, malaria, and diarrhea. Areas with weak health infrastructure, most likely in developing countries, will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond. The direct damage expenses to health are estimated to be between US dollars two to four billion per year by 2030.
Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity, and health experts worldwide respond to the health harms caused by this unfolding crisis. Let us discuss how climate change affects human health and why scientists say it is not too late to prevent the catastrophe.
Heatwaves are dangerous. Extreme heat may increase the risk of other types of disasters. Extreme heat is one of the primary reasons for weather-related deaths in the US. Heatwaves have killed an average of more than 700 per year from 2009 to 2019, more than all other impacts combined. Heatstroke occurs in humans when the body is unable to cool itself effectively. Ideally, the body can cool itself through sweating, but the sweat will not evaporate as rapidly in humid conditions, potentially leading to heatstroke. Dehydration from heat exposure also causes damage to kidneys because they depend on water to function correctly.
Exposure to extreme heat has wide-ranging physiological impacts on humans, generally amplifying existing conditions and leading to disabilities and premature deaths. The adverse health effects of excessive heat on human health are predictable and largely preventable with specific public health actions. The World Health Organization has issued public health guidance for the medical health professionals and the general public on coping with excessive heat.
One of the indirect but harmful ways that climate change can impact human health is by disrupting the world’s food supply. Climate change causes scarcity of food and reduces the nutrition levels of food. Crop yields across the globe have already begun to decline due to changing precipitation patterns, extreme weather events, and rising temperatures. Studies show that increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere leech plants of protein, iron, and zinc- nutrients that humans need to thrive.
Malnutrition can increase children’s risk of impaired growth, damaging cognitive function. Climate change also imperils what we consume from the sea. Rising ocean temperatures have resulted in many fish species migrating to Earth’s poles, searching for calmer waters. The resulting decrease of fish stocks in subtropic regions has significant implications for nutrition because many coastal communities depend on fish for a necessary amount of protein in their diets.
Air pollution includes greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. These gases cause the climate to warm because they trap heat from the Sun in the Earth’s atmosphere. The increase in the greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere since the 1990s is a cause of concern. The growth comes from pollutants released from smokestacks at power plants and factories, emissions from agriculture, vehicle exhaust, among other sources. The air pollutants can cause coughing, wheezing, asthma, shortness of breath, and chest pain. These pollutants can cause several health hazards because the particles in the polluted air can penetrate through the heart and lungs and can even travel into the bloodstream. These harmful particles can damage the body’s organs directly or provoke an inflammatory response from its immune system as it fights against them.
Estimates suggest that air pollution causes anywhere between 4.6 million and 8 million premature deaths every year. The elderly population is more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, but it can harm others too.
Due to the planet’s temperature increase, the geographic region where mosquitoes and other insects live is getting wider. These insects are well-known vectors of diseases like malaria, Zika virus, etc. Earlier, they used to stay in the minor sectors near the equator. But now, unfortunately, as the temperature of Canada and northern Europe gets higher, you will probably find the Zika virus in places you would not have expected.
Additionally, climatic conditions such as humidity and temperature can affect the life cycle of mosquitoes. There are also several ways climate change raises the risk of diseases transmitted through water, such as typhoid fever, parasites, and cholera. Sometimes that is pretty direct when people come in contact with dirty floodwaters.
So what can we do to improve the situation?
Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through food and energy-use choices and better transport can result in improved health, specifically through decreased air pollution. We must consider moving away from fossil fuels and replacing them with alternative energies like geothermal, wind, and solar. Generating clean energy is crucial. However, equally important is to reduce our energy consumption by using more efficient devices and adopting responsible habits. Toxic emissions from industrial sources, vehicles, and engines must also be reduced.
Shifting to hydrogen and electric vehicles and promoting shared mobility (i.e., public transports and carpooling) could reduce air pollution. Adopting techniques such as green buildings can be beneficial for the atmosphere because from planning to demolition, the green building aims to create environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures to minimize their carbon footprint.