Five health risks associated with climate change
The WHO estimates that between 2030 and 2050, 250,000 deaths are expected to be because of climate change.
The massive fires ravaging Australia give a bitter taste of what we can expect from climate change in the future. They have spread over an area larger than Switzerland, will eventually kill around a billion animals, have already caused massive ecological damage and habitat loss, razed productive agricultural lands and prompted mass evacuations. The army needed to be called in to help rescue people, and many lives were lost.
What’s more, the forests that were destroyed were supposed to mitigate the ferocity of the annual fire season. With them gone, experts are saying that events like this will grow in frequency.
Global health and human rights organizations have been lobbying to make climate change a priority as a determinant of health. Clean air, drinking water, adequate nutrition, and secure shelter are all threatened by climate change.
It is difficult to provide an estimate given vast unpredictability and unforeseen unknowns, but the WHO estimates that between 2030 and 2050, 250,000 deaths are expected to be because of climate change. Developing nations, women and children will face the brunt of these issues. Here's how climate change may affect our health:
1. Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
There has been an increase in the frequency and duration of heatwaves over the last few decades. Higher average temperatures are associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease. Higher temperatures also lead to higher levels of ozone and other pollutants which are associated with breathing problems and chronic disorders.
2. Infectious diseases and malnutrition
Climate change has already led to an increase in extreme weather conditions, the Australian fires are a big example. The number and intensity of natural disasters are expected to go up. This could lead to widespread devastation. Poorer countries with under-developed public health and disaster response infrastructure will again be the most affected. Further, rainfall will become less predictable which will affect the water supply for millions of people. Scores of infectious diseases might spread through dirty water, and agriculture will be affected as well. Malnutrition, the worst of which affects the developing world, may become a lot harder to deal with because of this.
We may see an increase in allergies caused by pollen. More pollen is produced in hotter conditions, which accounts for 20% of allergic reactions. The increased morbidity will make people more susceptible to overall disease.
4. Vector-borne infections
Cases of vector-borne infections, such as malaria, are likely to increase. The organisms that cause malaria, known as Plasmodium parasites, are likely to thrive in the environment brought on by climate change, according to several studies.
5. Mental health disorders
Mental health is not usually or directly associated with climate change. But the fact is that extreme weather changes, habitat loss and a threat to personal safety will lead to higher levels of stress and may trigger mental health problems. Research has found high amounts of stress and PTSD in survivors of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
As can be seen, the road ahead will be difficult unless drastic changes aren’t made starting now.
For more information, read our article on COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
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