Climate change is the biggest challenge that the modern civilization is facing today. The effects of climate change on human health proves to be severe on the living world. During the last 130 decades, the world has warmed by approximately 0.85 degrees. Each of the last three decades has been successfully warmed than any preceding decade since 1850. Sea-levels are rising, glaciers are melting and precipitation patterns are changing. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent studies say prove this.
How Climate Change Affects Health:
The effects of climate change on human health is really traceable directly by impacting on thermal stress, death or injury in floods and storms and indirectly through changes in the ranges of disease vectors, water-borne pathogens, water and air quality, food availability and quality. Global climate change, therefore, a newer challenge to ongoing efforts to protect human health.
Observations on Climate Change:
- The global average surface temperature has increased by approximately 0.65 over the last 50 years.
- The rates of warming and of sea-levels rise have accelerated in recent decades.
- Many areas, particularly mid-to-high latitude countries, have experienced increases in precipitation and there has been a general increase in the frequency of extreme rainfall.
- In some regions, such as parts of Asia and Africa, the frequency and intensity of droughts have increased in recent decades.
- The frequency of the most intense tropical cyclones has increased in some areas, such as the North Atlantic, since the 1970s.
- Heat waves, heavy precipitation events and other extreme events will become more frequent and intense.
Who are affected by climate change:
All populations will be affected by climate change, but some are more vulnerable than others. People living in small islands and other coastal regions, mega cities and mountainous and polar regions are particularly vulnerable.
Children in particular, those living in poor countries are among the most vulnerable to the resulting health risks and will be exposed longer to the health consequences. The health effects are also expected to be more severe for elderly people and people with infirmity or pre-existing medical conditions.
Areas with weak health infrastructure- mostly in developing countries will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
Effects of Climate Change on Health:
Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Climate Change directly or indirectly contributes to about 77,000 deaths annually in Asia and the Pacific about half of the world total attributed to climate change. Factors predisposing to health due to climate change include:
1. Weather Conditions:
Extreme weather events such as severe storms, floods, and drought adversely affected the lives of millions and damage to property. Extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease among elderly people. High temperature also raise the level of ozone gas and other pollutants in the air that increases the cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Pollen and other aeroallergen levels are being increased in air by extreme heat. These can trigger the respiratory diseases and even cancer.
2. Variable Rain:
Globally, the number of reported weather-related natural disaster has more than tripled since 1970s. Every year these disasters result in over 60000 deaths mainly in developing countries. Rising seas levels and increasingly extreme weather events will destroy homes, medical facilities and other essential services. People may be forced to move which in turn heightens the risk of a range of health effects.
Increasingly variable rainfall patterns are likely to affect the supply of fresh water. A lack of safe water can compromise hygiene and increase the risk of diarrheal disease, which kills over 500000 children aged under 5 years every year.
Floods contaminate fresh water supplies, heighten the risk of water-borne diseases and create breeding grounds for disease carrying insects such as mosquitoes and cause drownings and physical injuries, damage homes and disrupt the supply of medical and heath services.
3. Vector-borne Diseases:
Climatic conditions strongly affect water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted through insects or other cold blooded animals.
Malaria is strongly influenced by climate. Dengue is another important arboviral disease of humans, occurring in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in urban settings.
Rodents which proliferate in temperature regions following mild wet winters, act as reservoirs for various diseases. Certain rodent-borne diseases are associated with flooding, including leptospirosis, tularemia and viral hemorrhagic diseases.
4. Effects of Climate Change on Human Health Due To Rising Sea Levels:
Potential effects on health due to sea level rise include:
- Death and injury due to flooding
- Reduced availability of fresh water due to saltwater intrusion.
- Contamination of water supply through pollutants from submerged waste dumps.
- Change in the distribution of disease-spreading insects.
- Health effect on nutrition due to a loss in agriculture land and changes in fish catch.
5. Health Effects of Retracing Glaciers:
Glaciers are the source of drinking and irrigation water in the mountainous regions. Rising temperatures may cause the snow to melt earlier and faster in the spring, shifting the timing and distribution of run-off. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas may lead to glacier lake outburst floods, as occurred in mountainous regions.
6. Health Effects Due to Food Insecurity:
Increasing temperatures and more variable rainfalls and loss of agricultural land due to flash floods are expected to reduce crop yields in many tropical developing region, where food security is already a problem. Malnutrition causes millions of deaths each year, from both a lack of sufficient nutrients to sustain life and a resulting vulnerability to infectious diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and respiratory illness.
7. Other Effects of Climate Change on Human Health:
Increasingly global temperatures affect levels and seasonal patterns of both man-made and natural air-borne particles such as plant pollen which can trigger asthma.
Exposure to ultra violet radiation has been implicated as a cause of skin cancer in fair skinned human populations living at mid to high latitudes and also to induce immuno-suppression that could influence patterns of infectious disease.
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