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How climate change crisis impacts health and well-being of people?

How climate change crisis impacts health and well-being of people?

The effects of climate change, such as natural disasters, pollution and environmental degradation, are affecting the health of many people around the world. All countries must take this factor into account when developing a recovery strategy after the COVID-19 pandemic. New national commitments to combat global warming are essential. 

Four out of ten people are vulnerable to climate change, that is, more than 3.3 billion people, according to the sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC Working Group II.

According to the World Health Organization, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 due to increases in heat stress, dengue, malaria, and malnutrition.

Climate change crisis

Let’s start at the beginning. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that allows the Earth to maintain the necessary conditions to support life: the atmosphere retains part of the Sun’s heat; Without the greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the planet would be minus 18ºC.

The atmosphere is made up of various gases that, in the right proportion, fulfil their mission. The problem is when human activities increase the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and it retains more heat than necessary, causing the average temperature of the planet to increase and what we popularly call global warming to occur.

Climate Change impacts. Photo credit: unsplash/Li-An Lim

As a consequence of human activities, the temperature is expected to increase between 1.5° and 4.5°C in the coming decades, and unfortunately, our basic needs, among other things, will be the most threatened.

How climate change affect health?

  • The burning of fossil fuels degrades air quality, which represents a significant environmental risk to health. According to a WHO study, 7 million people die each year due to the consequences of air pollution, which causes respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, lung infections and cancer.
  • Although the predisposition to skin cancer is genetic, its incidence increases because there is a decrease in the filtration of UVC rays as a result of a reduction in the ozone layer through Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC greenhouse gas) It is estimated that up to 90% of these tumours are attributed to sun exposure.

The evidence of the impact of climate change on health is more consistent every day and its reason for being is often the consequence of policies that are not sustainable. The recent agreement signed in Paris gives us a halo of hope as it concluded with the adoption of a historic, ambitious and transparent agreement to combat climate change and drive action and investment for a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future.

Without the greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the planet would be minus 18ºC. Photo credit: unsplash/NOAA

The possibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the preservation and creation of green spaces, and the protection of forests, among other actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, reduce the generation of dangerous pollutants into the air and generate clean oxygen.

Increasing risks around the world

The increase in heat waves, droughts and floods are already exceeding the tolerance thresholds of plants and animals, causing the massive death of plant and coral species. These extreme weather events are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage.

Millions of people in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, small islands and the Arctic are especially vulnerable to food and water insecurity. In India, the impacts of heat waves and droughts are becoming more frequent.

Also Read:  Gangotri Glacier Melting: Climate change is catching up

IPCC experts have identified four key risks on the continent, most of which are exacerbated by a 2°C level of global warming compared to the 1.5°C level in low-to-medium adaptation scenarios.

In India, the impacts of heat waves and droughts are becoming more frequent. Photo credit: unsplash/Matt Palmer

Europe is already experiencing human mortality and morbidity and ecosystem changes due to heat; heat and drought stress in crops; water scarcity and flooding and sea level rise.

According to the report, significant losses in agricultural production are expected in most European areas throughout this century, which will not be offset by gains in northern Europe. Furthermore, adaptation through irrigation will be increasingly complicated due to the limited availability of water.

In fact, in southern Europe, more than a third of the population will be exposed to water scarcity in a 2°C scenario. With 3°C, this risk will double, and there could be significant economic losses in sectors dependent on water and energy. For Western and Southern Europe, and many of its cities, the risk of water scarcity will increase considerably under a 3°C scenario.

increasing urbanization and climate change create complex risks. Photo credit: unsplash/ Mike Newbry

Cities: shock hotspots, but solution

The report also offers a detailed assessment of the impacts, risks and adaptation to climate change in cities, where more than half of the world’s population lives.

People’s health, lives and livelihoods, as well as critical assets and infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, are increasingly affected by the dangers of heat waves, storms, drought and floods, as well as slow-onset changes such as sea level rise.

Increasing urbanization and climate change create complex risks, especially for those cities already experiencing poorly planned urban growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a lack of basic services.

But cities also offer opportunities for climate action: green buildings, reliable supplies of clean water and renewable energy, and sustainable transportation that connect urban and rural areas can lead to a more inclusive and just society.

Climate change are expected to worsen as the climate continues to warm. Heat waves, floods, droughts. Photo credit: unsplash/Wesley Tingey

Is climate change going to get worse?

According to the US Global Change Research Program, the adverse health effects of climate change are expected to worsen as the climate continues to warm. Heat waves, floods, droughts and other extreme weather events will get worse. In addition, climate change is expected to change the geographic range of the ticks that carry Lyme disease and the mosquitoes that carry West Nile and Zika, exposing more people to vector-borne diseases. By 2050, annual national cases from West Nile are projected to more than double.

Warmer water temperatures will disrupt harmful algae growth and compromise our drinking water, while drought and extreme weather can negatively impact our food security. Droughts will also affect the way we breathe: In 2015, the drought in California led to an increase in allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory problems.

The 2021 IPCC report on climate change is clear: whatever we do, the world is locked in at least 30 years of worsening climate impacts. The effects on our health will be severe and, for some of us, could be disastrous.

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