By Larraine Roulston:
For decades scientists have been aware that human health will be affected by climate change. During the 1980s, both Time Magazine and National Geographic featured special issues related to our ailing planet. Sadly, it has taken until now for politicians to wake up to this reality and share widely held public concern.
The latest report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States, revealed the various ways that climate change impacts our health. In recent years, scientific knowledge has advanced significantly, allowing experts to build on the 2014 National Climate Assessment.
The following are just a few ways in which global warming can affect us all.
As our weather is more erratic, heavy rainfall that causes flooding in buildings can result in the development of mold and harmful bacteria.
Changing temperatures and rainfall patterns can cause the spread of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, as well as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Scott Findlay, biology professor at the University of Ottawa wrote “Lyme disease — originally unknown in Canada — has been steadily advancing north, principally as a result of warmer winters, and is now endemic in parts of southern Canada.” In the northeast areas of the U.S., the incidence of Lyme disease has doubled from 2001 to 2014, consistent with warming trends. Toronto Public Health states that West Nile virus and Lyme disease currently “pose increased risks to human health.”
Food security is another threat. Warmer temperatures and extreme changing weather patterns can result in contamination of food and its distribution. In turn, rising food costs might be a contribution to obesity among those unable to afford nutritional organic meats, fruits and vegetables.
The rise in temperature within cities could cause additional deaths from summer heat, and heighten the effects of chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Children are more vulnerable than adults to all aspects of climate-sensitive infectious diseases and pollution-related illness.
The exposure to environmental disasters could worsen many people’s mental health and well-being.
We face a future that may limit productivity at school and work due to increased ground-level smog, as well as allergy and asthma conditions that will worsen from longer pollen exposure. From 1995-2011 in the central U.S., the ragweed season has lengthened by as much as 27 days.
As climate change dangers are huge, citizens are pushing their politicians to find solutions to cap carbon emissions and to turn towards greener energy. However, it will take everyone — from children planting nature gardens to the mass media promoting “green concepts” to achieve this outcome. Human activities are the problem and must be altered to affect a solution. The repercussions of non-action will be devastating for all mankind. Together we can protect our fragile ecosystem.
- The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health – a Sobering New Report
- Climate Change Imperils Human Health
Larraine authors a children’s adventure series on composting at www.castlecompost.com