Whenever we think of climate change it’s a sad polar bear standing alone on a melting iceberg. It’s probably the reason why we don’t take it as seriously as needed. We don’t feel connected to the threat therefore we don’t take action.
The truth is that the Northern Hemisphere is heating up. In the US alone, by mid-century, almost all cities in the eastern half of the country will have extremely hot days above 32 degrees Celsius which will be a tripling in the number of scorching days.
Impacts of climate change
Climate change is not just about rising temperatures and It’s not only limited to the land surfaces. The oceans are warming up too and it will directly cause the strength of hurricane winds around the world. Climate change is also causing the rise of sea levels and extremes of the hydrologic cycle. So we see more severe droughts, floods, and fires. These physical attributes of climate change will affect our health by many climate-sensitive diseases.
from heat waves to infectious diseases especially insect-borne or vector-borne diseases. Here’s why climate change is a public health crisis that affects all of us.
The effects of climate change on human health
Urban heat islands affect heart stress and heart attacks. People are dying in heat waves. Air pollution and Aeroallergens cause respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. Another health effect of climate change will be vector-borne diseases including Malaria, Hantavirus, Zika, and water-borne diseases.
Some non-food plants — like poison ivy and ragweed — will benefit from higher temperatures and CO2. Ragweed plants produce more pollen under these conditions, which is a problem for anyone with allergies or asthma.
The effects of climate change on agriculture
We all know that our lives depend on food supplies and water resources. Extreme heat has serious implications for our food security. Climate change will directly affect agriculture and Record-breaking temperatures are predicted to wreak havoc on our world’s food supply.
We need to prepare ourselves for another wave of refugees. These people will leave everything behind and move to refugee camps to reach out for food and water. Today, 690 million people are currently at risk for hunger — and this number could double by mid-century.
Worse still, places like sub-Saharan Africa — which are the most vulnerable to climate-sensitive diseases like malaria, malnutrition, and diarrheal disease — are the least responsible for climate change. If you look at global CO2 emissions, Africa isn’t contributing to the problem, while wealthy countries like the US are the most responsible for today’s climate.
Threatening air pollution
Air pollution kills a staggering seven million people every year — that means one in eight deaths worldwide is from air pollution. That’s twice the number of people who die from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria — combined. According to the World Bank, air pollution costs the world economy over five trillion dollars every year.
Our fossil fuel dependence is a serious threat. Yet we think it’s complicated and quite tough to move to clean energy sources. But is it that hard in comparison with the actions we do to mitigate the climate change effects on our health?
Clean energy is the key
When we think about the investment cost of cleaner energy there are some estimates that it might cost $30 to not emit one ton of CO2 but when we burn oil, coal, and gas, we’re not only producing CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions but we’re also emitting dangerous particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and hazardous pollutants that harm human health.
In conclusion, for every ton of CO2 that you don’t emit you also don’t admit dangerous pollutants. So that the health benefit for every ton of CO2 that you avoid emitting is $200. Oftentimes policymakers are so focused on that extra $30 upfront cost, that they don’t see that the health savings are far bigger.
The US EPA looked back at the costs and benefits of the Clean Air Act and found that for every dollar invested, it yields $30 in benefits. And if you live in places like China or India where there’s very high pollution, there’s an even greater benefit.
Climate change is a public health crisis, so it’s time to put a price on carbon. we can all support safe routes to schools, physically fit children and adults, cities designed for people not just cars, clean air from low-carbon energy, green jobs, and preserving natural resources for a healthy future.
Confronting the global climate crisis is the greatest human health opportunity of our lifetime and we can’t afford not to confront the status challenge.
This post was adapted from Jonathan Patz’s TEDxOshkosh Talk. Watch the full talk here: