The people who talk a lot about climatic changes are well aware of the effects it causes to our health and body as well. We are creating awareness regarding the aftermath of all the environmental hazards in regards to population, wild life issues, temperature rise etc. But little we all know about the changes they are making in our bodies and health related matters. The environmental consequences of the climate change, such as extreme heat waves, rising sea-levels, changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and droughts, intense hurricanes, and degraded air quality, affect directly and indirectly the physical, social, and psychological health of us humans. In short, all these pressing issues of climatic changes are directly or indirectly affecting our human race.
The first thing that hits our mind with climatic change is temperature rise. Average rainfall, seasons’ onset periods and other factors become secondary. Other environmental events that are caused by climatic changes are extreme weather events, infectious diseases and drought and dry conditions such as:
- Heat waves
- Mosquitoes borne illness
- Water borne illness
- Fresh water scarcity
- Reduced food yields
- Higher food cost
As we know that with all the current scenarios for every degree centigrade rise in temperature, the death rate could rise by 2% -5%. It’s also projected that by 2050, “heat events” will occur every 2-5 years instead of 20 years. Heat events are situations where summers are substantially hotter and/or more humid than average. With my previous article on Urban Heat Island effect, I know that with lot of urbanization and construction the temperature in the cities is critically higher than the villages due to dark roofs, reduces air flow and other factors. This Urban Heat Island effect is the cause of rising temperature in the cities by 5%. So with increased heat waves and urban heat island effect, the fear of heart stroke and dehydration increases in leaps and bounds.
Our human body is susceptible and prone to all the climatic disasters happening around. This is all due to the immune system that we are able to cope with the scorching heat and air borne infections. We have often heard people telling to focus on improving out immune system to stay healthy. But the excessive UV exposure can alter our immune system. Warming trends will affect disease transmission by increasing insect geographic range and population. It is so happening that malnutrition will decrease the ability to fight infections as the food supply dwindles. So if the heat might not get you, drought or infectious disease might. Also due to these extreme weather conditions of flooding, storms and intense wildfires there will be major property losses, infrastructural damage and water contamination. This will aggravate many heart diseases and cardiovascular illness. A study says that droughts are associated with, an increased rate of, mental illness and suicide as well.
Respiratory illness will be far more common. Chemical air pollutants increase the amount of pollen in the air and make it even more irritating to breathe. Most common allergies are caused by pollens. Experiments show that ragweed produces 60% more pollen when CO2 concentration is doubled. A study shows that 235 million people currently suffer from asthma worldwide. In 2008, there were 1.3 million premature deaths in urban areas from breathing outdoor air pollution. A new term that came across while researching about this topic was Household air pollution. It is caused by cooking and heating with solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves. Over 8% of global deaths are a result of pneumonia caused by household air pollution.
Several steps should be taken in the approach towards the prevention of all these extreme changes.
- Creating awareness regarding insect or waterborne diseases
- Improved early warnings for extreme weather conditions
- Enhancing the public education of climate change health risks and the benefits of alternative fuels
- Forecasts from climate models must be integrated with local and regional data on demography, geography and infrastructure to predict the effects on local areas
- Outreach and education to the developing nations about the risks of using fossil fuels for heating and cooking
- Hospitals need to focus on emergency preparedness and resilience
- Operable windows to provide natural ventilation
- Reduce hospital dependence on fossil fuel energy through conservation efforts
Certain adverse effects can be minimized or avoided with sound mitigation and adaption strategies. Strategies for mitigation and adapting to climate change can prevent illness and death in people now, while also protecting the environment and health of future generations. Mitigation refers to the steps taken to reduce greenhouse gas emission and to enhance the sinks that trap or remove carbon from the atmosphere. Adaption refers to the actions taken to lessen the impact on the health and environment due to the changes that cannot be prevented through mitigation. Appropriate mitigation and adaption strategies will positively affect both climate change and environment, thereby positively affect human health. Lets pledge today to be more aware and conscious of the environment hazards which are causing several heath issues and work towards improving them.