effects of climate change on human health

What are the effects of Climate Change on Human Health?

Climate change is a major threat to human health around the world. The effects of Climate Change on human health caused due to human activities are increasing worldwide. Rising greenhouse gas concentrations result in:

  1. Increases in temperature
  2. changes in precipitation
  3. increases in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events
  4. Rising sea levels

The climate change impacts are endangering the health of humans by the air we breathe, affecting our water and food sources, the weather/climate we experience, and our interactions with the built and natural environments. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health continue to grow. Present and forthcoming climate effects expose more people in wider areas to public health threats.

Exposure Pathways

  1. Extreme Events
  2. Air Quality
  3. Flooding
  4. Vector Born diseases
  5. Water Related Issues
  6. Food Related issues
  7. Mental Health & Well Being

Effects of Climate Change on Human Health

Impacts that arise from these climate change consequences are as follows:

  1. Extreme Events

Let’s understand the effects of climate on human health from extreme events perspective. Due to climate change, there are more frequent and more intense extreme events e.g. Heat Waves. Heatwaves occur when there is a prolonged period of abnormally high temperature. Due to heat waves world has witnessed a lot of illness and deaths.

2. Air Quality

The increasing temperature and changing precipitation patterns due to climate change have brought about worsened air quality. We observed outdoor air quality to hazardous levels in a lot of large metropolitans around the world. Air quality deterioration causes cardiovascular and respiratory illness, respiratory allergies, asthma and may lead to death

3. Flooding

Rising sea levels, sudden and extreme precipitation/rain, hurricanes, storms cause flooding not only in coastal areas but also in urban centers. Our cities haven’t been designed to cope with that. So among the health effects of climate change due to flooding is that it may cause deaths, injuries, mental health issues, illness, skin issues, etc.

4. Vector Borne Infections

Weather pattern changes will cause vectors behavioral changes and expansion geographically which will cause increased risk to human interaction with Lyme disease, malaria, dengue, encephalitis, hantavirus, rift valley fever, chikungunya, West Nile virus.

Climate Change: Some Facts and Solutions

5. Water Related Issues

Climate change will cause a change in the quality and quality of water availability to humans which in turn will cause different issues for people e.g. cholera, cryptosporidiosis, campylobacter, leptospirosis, diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, etc.

6. Food Related issues

Changes in temperature and precipitation will impact food quality and quantity. Flooding events degrade the drinking water, human wastewater treatment, and stormwater disposal that, in turn, marks an amplified risk of waterborne diseases triggered by pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. 68 percent of diseases caused by drinking unhealthy water outbreaks in the US between 1948 and 1994, came after extreme rainfall events.

7. Mental Health and Well Being

The health effects of climate change also include effects on mental health and the extreme events will bring disaster which will impact the mental health and well-being of people. Increase exposure to disaster forced migrations will cause stress, grief, behavioral disorders, social impacts.

The severity of health effects of climate change will depend on:

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  • ability of public health and safety systems to address or prepare
  • how prepared public health safety system is to address climate change
  • individual’s behavior
  • Age/ Gender Sensitivity
  • Economic Status
  • Where a person is living
  • Exposure to climate change impact
  • Community’s ability to adapt

People living in developing countries, coastal areas, children, pregnant women, old age, people with low income, are more susceptible to climate change health impacts

Adaptation and Mitigation Measure for health effects of climate change

  • Building capacity & resilience of health care system
  • Leadership and governance commitments
  • Health workforce capacity building
  • Increasing health information systems
  • Provision of medical product and technologies
  • Efficient service delivery system
  • Availability of financing

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