Many are familiar with the adage, the “flu season is upon us,” but what if the norm was instead, “climate change season is upon us?” Despite those who negate the stark evidence, make no mistake: climate change really is affecting our health. For years, scientists could only speculate and theorize how and why climate change had a negative impact on our health. However, new studies reveal just how much the earth’s rising temperatures are impacting our ability to mitigate human health issues.
From extreme weather to disease carrying insects, climate change is a very real force. In a time when healthcare costs are politically polarized and recovery efforts are slow or issues are too fast-moving to figure out, the time for global attention to what is becoming a crisis is now. Rising global temperatures have given way to animal populations either mutating or rapidly falling into extinction. Climate change is a crisis because of the alarming impact on the entire ecological system.
Here we will look at some of the many ways it is harming our health and the small, but keen steps we can take to decrease its impact on an increasingly populated earth.
Carbon Dioxide In The Air
With what appears to be longer summer seasons filled with consistently hot days, the chance for methane gases and other harmful emissions increases as it warms the earth. But even more cause for alarm is the underlying factor that methane gases and increased carbon dioxide are a direct result of human activity. The number of vehicles on the road, of which energy efficiency is nearly absent, contribute to poor air quality resulting in a higher number of deaths related to cardiovascular disease and asthma among other things. Carbon dioxide is the major culprit in air quality, making air pollution the single most highest environmental cause of death.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) noted in 2013 that air pollution causes the deaths of about 200,000 people each year in the United States. That number was just over two million in 2015 in both China and India. Carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect. Similar to the planet Venus in our solar system, greenhouse gases become trapped in the atmosphere, blanketing the globe with harmful toxins which then affect our food chain and ecosystem.
Our news media outlets seem to conduct endless streams of people in peril when it comes to storms. The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory which studies climate activity from a scientific viewpoint recently came to several conclusions about global warming. Their findings are widely acceptable and have been used to determine that anthropogenic warming is expected to rise near the end of the 21st century. While what we are seeing unfolds as an increase in extreme weather, these changes only become patterns when documented over the course of time.
Warm ocean waters are the perfect environment for hurricanes and typhoons. In the summer of 2017, three strong hurricanes succinctly developed in the Atlantic ocean, likely beginning as one large hurricane before harnessing enough energy to break up and become individual storms. Each storm wreaked havoc, especially among small island nations in the Caribbean whose land mass was no match for the strength and destructibility of these hurricanes. The impact on human health as a result of such storms included drownings due to floods, foodborne related illnesses due to exposure to air or warm temperatures resulting in decomposition, and even vector-borne illnesses -- diseases carried and transmitted by insects.
Who Is Impacted The Most?
This is a startling truth, but many vulnerable nations and communities whose access to reliable resources for resiliency are the most affected by climate change. Economic constraints pose a threat to getting the aid that is needed for people in these nations which means they are exposed to environmental health concerns over prolonged periods. Following the devastating Hurricane Irma which hit the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, electrical power was nearly knocked out over the entire state of Florida. Within a week it was restored thanks in part to federal aid and neighboring states. Other countries that are either isolated geographically or otherwise do not have a stable economy that can provide adequate resources in a quick manner are at greater risk for not receiving help when needed.
Another reason why poor and developing nations are at an increased risk of befalling the effects of climate change is simply due to location. Generally speaking, wealthier nations are geographically located in more temperate regions, while developing nations often reside in subtropical areas. Because the earth’s temperatures are rising, these tropical areas are even more at risk.
What Can Be Done?
Driving your car less and opting for environmentally friendly modes of transportation can reduce your carbon footprint. Using energy efficient products where available such as LED lights can not only reduce the amount of energy used, but also save you money. Reducing the use of gasoline powered lawn equipment is another step you can take to help.
Reaching consensus on ways to mitigate the health impact of climate change is a formidable task, but small steps can be taken on an individual level. By adopting some of these best practices, the earth over time has the ability to reshape itself into a cleaner environment making it healthy for all.