7 Ways Climate Change will Affect Our Health
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Do you feel that the Summer Heat is going up year after year? Or feel breathless just by minor exertion? Or are tired with the regular news of Cyclones, Forest Fires & Flooding taking place?
What about the Locust attack that took place in large swarms destroying crops & farmlands? Or the fires raging through California, Australia, or the Amazon? Does it worry you when you know of relatives & close ones affected by these events? And what if you were one of those affected by it?
All these events are an indication of a Rapidly Changing Climate on the Planet and have affected our Health either directly or indirectly. These health effects eventually cause a disruption in the normal lifestyle and a loss of working hours eventually affecting the Economy of the Country.
Here’s a look at 7 ways Climate Change will Affect Human Health:
Human Health Effects of Climate Change. (Image Courtesy - George Luber, CDC)
1. Effect due to extreme weather
The rise in the Global Temperature levels will cause an increase in the frequency & duration of Heat-related events such as Heat waves during Summers with average temperatures reaching new heights every year. Such events may lead to Heat strokes, Dehydration, Respiratory illnesses due to seasonal changes, and even deaths in extreme cases.
Cold waves will accompany heat events causing their own effects of Hypothermia & respiratory illnesses. The impacts are seen more in children, old & frail, or with people already having underlying cardiovascular or respiratory conditions. The extremes of temperatures will increase the number of deaths.
2. Water & food-borne infections
Extreme weather events of drought & flooding lead to a compromise in water quality. Most people do not have good access to freshwater sources and good water quality. An increase in rainfall & flooding promotes water-borne diseases due to contamination such as cholera, diarrhea, leptospirosis, etc. High temperatures also promote the growth of microorganisms like Salmonella causing infections like typhoid. A compromise in health & hygiene will take place due to reduced water & food quality.
An increase in virus outbreaks due to extreme weather has been on a rise in the past decade and will continue to do so in the near future.
3. Air-quality reduction effects
Increase in temperatures & altered pattern of rainfall causes effects on seasonal patterns of air-borne particles (Natural and man-made). This will trigger respiratory tract illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, etc.
Extreme weather events have led to an increase in wildfires that rage for longer duration emitting pollutants such as particulate matter, ground-level ozone that lead to cardiovascular & respiratory illnesses & death. Low visibility due to smog formations can cause disruptions in normal functioning and even car accidents.
4. Vector-borne diseases
Variations in temperature levels promote the breeding of vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, etc. Diseases like malaria that took place in tropical regions due to high temperatures have now shifted to occur in temperate regions due to an increase in average temperatures promoting the breeding of vectors. Changes in seasonal patterns have increased the duration of the occurrence of vector-borne diseases due to a wider time period that is suitable for the vectors to breed.
5. Psycho-social health effects due to displacement
The increase in the frequency of Cyclones, Flooding, rise in sea levels is causing human populations to be evacuated to safer regions. These displacements cause a demoralization & emotional trauma of leaving the safe space of a home and moving to unknown locations to start a livelihood from scratch. We feel home-sick in just a few days of being away, imagine having to leave that home behind forever and shifting to a completely new location with unknown surroundings.
Extreme events cause injuries & fatalities causing mental health effects in the injured or family members of the deceased. The death of breadwinners places the entire family into a vulnerable position in society with increased standards of living.
6. Effects due to shortage of essential commodities such as food & drinking water
Global weather patterns are changing and this will affect the agriculture sector due to irregular rainfall & extreme temperatures. Loss of agricultural land to flash floods or episodes of drought will reduce crop yield and threaten food security. Malnutrition issues that already plague developing countries will be on the rise causing increased deaths. Anemia can cause devastating effects and increase morbidity & mortality rates.
Flooding and rising sea levels may cause salt-water intrusion on freshwater sources (groundwater) thus making the water non-potable. High temperatures can also cause algal blooms in freshwater sources since they are resilient and can thrive in such conditions. This will lead to water scarcity.
7. Conflicts over access to resources causing health effects
Migration due to extreme events may cause increased pressure on limited resources. This may cause civil conflict & psycho-social impacts on the migrants. Limited resources lead to price inflations and make them unaffordable for the downtrodden.
Image Courtesy - NOAA Climate.gov cartoon by Emily Greenhalgh.
"Health is a state of physical, mental & social wellbeing, not merely an absence of disease or infirmity." (World Health Organisation).
The Rapidly Changing Climate will not only affect us physically but also mentally & socially.
Have you or your loved ones experienced any of the Health Effects mentioned above? Do share your experiences and the easiest solutions to combat these effects in the comments below.
- Amutha, D. and Juliet, M., Impact of Climate Changes on Human Health in India (November 14, 2017). http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3071055
- Majra, J. P., & Gur, A. (2009). Climate change and health: Why should India be concerned?. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 13(1), 11–16. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5278.50717
- USGCRP, 2016: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Crimmins, A., J. Balbus, J.L. Gamble, C.B. Beard, J.E. Bell, D. Dodgen, R.J. Eisen, N. Fann, M.D. Hawkins, S.C. Herring, L. Jantarasami, D.M. Mills, S. Saha, M.C. Sarofim, J. Trtanj, and L. Ziska, Eds. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 312 pp. http://dx.doi.org/10.7930/J0R49NQX