Climate Change’s Impact on Human Health
Illnesses are far too common as of late. The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing for three years, yet it is not the only concern. Climate change has been found to create health hazards in a myriad of ways. There is a plethora of illnesses that are both caused and worsened by changing temperatures, environments and lifestyles.
Although drastic temperatures generally increase the likelihood of falling sick, climate change comes with many other negative factors. The dreaded allergy season that already affects many is expected to last longer. As stated by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, air pollutants will be a reason for further irritation, in addition to an increase in pollen, mold and poison ivy.
Waterborne illnesses, such as dysentery, can be exacerbated through extreme precipitation where insufficient infrastructure leads to contamination and runoff. Heavier rainfall has been linked to an increase in emergency room visits for those living in areas without combined sewage facilities. Vector-borne illnesses like malaria become more prominent in hot, humid weather when mosquitoes are given more accommodating temperatures for survival. Furthermore, infections that are spread via animal-to-human transmissions are more probable with deforestation as animals are displaced and put into direct contact with people — a major culprit of climate change.
Heat-related illnesses are more obviously worsened by global warming. Severe dehydration and heat exhaustion are very probable under extreme heat, leading people to be at risk of heatstroke — a life-threatening condition. Moreover, heat waves can cause increased mortality rates due to heart, lung or brain failure.
Less straightforward adversities include malnutrition. High levels of ozone damage crops and lessen yields, whereas floods and drought can completely ruin agricultural areas. With worsening food crop conditions, it is almost guaranteed that a fresh, wholesome supply of food cannot be readily accessible to everyone, giving rise to heavily processed and nutrient-lacking diets.
Lastly, climate change not only has negative effects on physical health but harms mental health as well. Climate-related migration is common for people living in regions that provide insufficient living conditions due to temperature and weather. The ensuing stress undoubtedly takes a toll on mental health and can lead to chronic mental issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
Many of these illnesses affect more vulnerable populations while also targeting those living in the global south. This places an even greater emphasis on the need to understand how climate change is actively harming human health and to accommodate the growing demand for awareness and action.