For years, we’ve seen data on how climate change is affecting our earth. We know that summers are getting hotter, polar ice caps are melting and sea temperatures are rising all due to climate change. We know that these negative impacts of climate change are caused by human activity releasing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But what do we know about the effects of climate change on our bodies? What is climate change doing to human health?
The Medical Society Consortium recently published a summary report looking at the effects climate change is having on personal human health worldwide. Unlike most reports on climate change, this one was prepared by physicians and not by climate scientists. The physicians studied current medical and climate change information to come to their conclusions. The data in the report is broken down geographically.
The Medical Society Consortium report found that climate change is already affecting our health. What was thought to be a future problem has been proven to be ailing us already. The report also found that certain populations, such as children, student athletes, pregnant women, the elderly, the impoverished, and people with chronic health conditions, are more at risk for the health concerns associated with climate change. Lastly, the report warns that these health effects from climate change are growing and expected to get significantly worse.
Health Risks By Region
People living on the west coast of the United States are at risk of wildfires, extreme temperatures, poor air quality, extreme weather and agricultural hazards. Persons on the east coast have the same issues to worry about, as well as vector-borne diseases, such as malaria which is transported by mosquitoes. Those living in the center of the country face similar risks to those on the east coast.
Thanks to climate change, we should expect to see an increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather occurrences such as heavy downpours, floods, droughts and storms. At first glance, these extreme weather occurrences may not seem related to our health but look again. Disasters like floods and storms often cause direct injury, displacement and even death. They can harm infrastructure, such as buildings and power systems, which can make clean water and food scarce. Extreme weather also makes the outbreak of infectious diseases much more likely to occur. These diseases break out when people are most vulnerable, without their physical protection and without easy access to medical care.
Climate change has many known negative effects on our air quality. It increases chemical reactions in the air we breathe, increases pollen and leads to more forest fires. Persons who already suffer from breathing issues, such as those with asthma and allergies, are further at risk thanks to air pollution caused by climate change. Other problems include increased humidity, heavy rainfalls and increased mold growth due to air quality problems. All of these problems put those with respiratory issues at greater risk.
As climate change increases and carbon dioxide levels increase, the grown food that we eat loses its nutritional value. In a carbon rich atmosphere, plants produce less protein and more sugars and starches, making the food they grow less nutritious. These plants are also less effective at taking in essential minerals. In addition to weakened plants and less nutritious food, climate change is responsible for droughts and other extreme weather that can damage food. The agricultural industry suffers and as a result, so does our nutrition and overall health.