Climate Change on Human Health

By Lauren Costa

There is consistent scientific argument that greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity will change Earth’s climate. Human health has always been linked and influenced by weather and climate change. Fluctuations in climate and altering extreme weather patterns affect the environment that directly provides us with healthy air, food, water, shelter, and security. Climate change combined with other natural and human-made threats, risk human health in many ways. These different health impacts are already being experienced in the United States. There is an abundance of growing evidence that climate change cause increasing health risks and has already contributed to the increased morbidity and mortality in many places in the world. Climate change can affect human health in two main ways; first, by changing the  frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors. and second, by making unanticipated health problems or health threats in places and times where they have not previously occurred

“The World Health Organisation estimates that the warming and precipitation trends due to anthropogenic climate change of the past 30 years already claim over 150,000 lives annually. Many prevalent human diseases are linked to climate fluctuations, from cardiovascular mortality and respiratory illnesses due to heatwaves, to altered transmission of infectious diseases and malnutrition from crop failures” (Patz). Through extensive research, Jonathan A. Patz  and Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum found that global average temperatures are projected to rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees celsius by the end of the century. Sea level is expected to increase 40 cm, putting a number of humans at risk for flooding, by the end of 2080.

Looking specially into non-infectious health effects, Europe has shown what this can begin to look like for humans. The summer of 2003  was Europe’s hottest summer in over 500 years, with average temperatures 3.5 8C. That summer approximately 22,000 heat-related deaths occurred across Europe in just two weeks, making it the most shocking example of health risks due from temperature change. Reflecting from this extreme scenario, the European heatwave in 2003 was well outside the range of expected climate variability. Exposure to extreme heat can lead to heat stroke and dehydration, as well as cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease. The connection between climate change and regional heatwaves show a large potential for more frequent and more severe heat waves in a future warmer world. Warmer average temperatures will lead to hotter days and more frequent and longer heat waves. These changes will lead to an increase in heat-related deaths. Exposure to both extreme hot and cold weather is correlated with increased morbidity and mortality.

Climate change also causes infectious diseases. Vectorborne diseases are illness that are carried by disease vectors. Most common vectors include mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. These vectors are prone to carrying infectious pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, from animals to humans. Research found that changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme events, increases the spread of diseases circulating by vectors and can lead to illnesses occurring earlier in the year.

Manutation remains one of the largest health crises worldwide and according to the World Health Organization, approximately 800 million people are currently undernourished, with close to half of these living in Africa (Patz). Droughts and extreme weather conditions and have a direct impacts on growing food and can influence the food supply.  

Research shows there is a profound impact between climate change and the link to infectious diseases. People can fall ill if exposed to contaminated drinking or recreational water. “Climate change increases the risk of illness through increasing temperature, more frequent heavy rains and runoff, and the effects of storms”(epa.org). Health impacts have been linked to gastrointestinal illness like diarrhea, effects on the body’s nervous and respiratory systems, or liver and kidney damage.

Overall, there is enormous amounts of evidence pointing to climate change impacting human health. These impacts threaten our health by affecting the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the weather we experience. Although the impacts seen danting and extreme, there are a lot we can do to prepare for and adapt to these changes. Understanding the threats of climate change on human health will help to lower the risk and be prepared for the future to come.

Work Cited:

“Climate Impacts on Human Health.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Jan. 2017, 19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-human-health_.html.

Patz, Jonathan A., and Diarmid Campbell Lendrum. “Impact of Regional Climate Change on Human Health.” Nature, 17 Nov. 2005, www.nature.com/articles/nature04188.

Motavalli, Jim. “Connecting the dots: the emerging science of conservation medicine links human and animal health with the environment.” E, Nov.-Dec. 2004, p. 26+. Environmental Studies and Policy, rlib.pace.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.rlib.pace.edu/ps/i.do?p=PPES&sw=w&u=nysl_me_pace&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA125335738&asid=4ffd0597fae9d8960595c5b823891479. Accessed 19 Nov. 2017.

Stowell, Jennifer D., et al. “The Impact of Climate Change and Emissions Control on Future Ozone Levels: Implications for Human Health.” Environment International, vol. 108, Nov. 2017, pp. 41-50. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.envint.2017.08.001.

Weldu, Yemane W. “Life Cycle Human Health and Ecosystem Quality Implication of Biomass-Based Strategies to Climate Change Mitigation.” Renewable Energy: An International Journal, vol. 108, Aug. 2017, pp. 11-18. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2017.02.046.

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