Global Climate Strike: Here's how climate change is bad for health

Rising global temperatures will lead to hotter and longer heatwaves increasing the risk for dehydration, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases.

Myupchar September 20, 2019 17:37:28 IST
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Global Climate Strike: Here's how climate change is bad for health
  • As temperatures and humidity rise around the globe, there is a marked increase in infectious diseases

  • Diseases that used to be endemic to one part of the world are now spreading to other areas as weather conditions become less hostile to a host of pathogens

  • Experts say that rising global temperatures will lead to hotter and longer heatwaves - increasing the risk for dehydration, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases

Hundreds of thousands of teens around the world joined the Global Climate Strike today - just three days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. The protesters’ key demand: find an alternative to fossil fuels - fast. In India, the strike is being held in metro cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

As the conversation around the environmental cost of climate change heats up, there is also an argument to be made for the impact of global warming on our health. For example, as temperatures and humidity rise around the globe, there is a marked increase in infectious diseases. Plus, diseases that used to be endemic to one part of the world are now spreading to other areas as weather conditions become less hostile to a host of pathogens.

Global Climate Strike Heres how climate change is bad for health

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images

Here’s a quick look at some diseases that are gaining from our losing battle against climate change.

Heatwave and disease

World Health Organization data show that world temperature has increased by 0.85 degrees Celsius in the last 130 years. Increasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone — mostly from vehicles, industries, agriculture, excessive use of fossil fuels and deforestation — will likely make things worse.

Experts say that rising global temperatures will lead to hotter and longer heatwaves - increasing the risk for dehydration, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases.

Mean summer temperatures are already on the rise. People who work outdoors, students, pregnant women, young children and the homeless are most at risk. The elderly and the sick may increasingly find it difficult to manage their body temperature and, therefore, suffer more.

Pollution and diseases

Heatwaves are often followed by an increase in pollution as the air stagnates and particulate piles up. This could lead to a rise in allergies and respiratory conditions.

Experts project that as climate change degrades air quality, we will see higher levels of ground ozone. Ozone may be a protector at the stratospheric level, but on the ground, it leads to premature ageing, illness and early death. Exposure to ozone at the ground level also increases the risk of lung diseases.

Higher carbon emissions are also said to decrease the nutritional value of crops - this may lead to malnourishment.

Vector-borne diseases

As the global temperature rises, we will likely see an increase in the breeding areas for common vectors like mosquitoes, fleas, flies and ticks. This, in turn, may lead to a rise in the diseases spread by them - including malaria, scrub typhus, Congo fever.

Climate change could also promote the growth of pathogenic microbes — harmful bacteria, virus, fungi and parasites — in areas which were not endemic (like home) for them previously.

For example, changes in humidity and temperature led to an epidemic of malaria in East Africa at the turn of the 21st century. Since the population there had never faced malaria before, many people died.

Water and food-borne diseases

Heavy rains, storms, floods and hurricanes due to changing weather patterns can contaminate of freshwater sources with harmful microbes, which can lead to kidney problems, liver diseases and gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhoea.

Cases of food-poisoning might also go up, due to higher growth of infectious bacteria- studies suggest that the number of salmonella infections will rise with rising temperature.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. Please read our articles on lung disease and heart disease for more information.

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