The World Health warns that “Climate change is the greatest challenge of the 21st century, threatening all aspects of the society in which we live in”.
Although 175 countries have made a pledge to reduce their emissions, known as the Paris Agreement, there is still a big gap on actual emissions and the promises made by each country according to a study.
According to the study, “The health effects of climate change: Know the risks and become part of the solutions,” meeting each countries emissions target is not just a theoretical “nice to have” since there is now an emerging health threat because of climate change.
In Canada where the study is conducted, impacts of climate change are emerging, like documented coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, increases in heatwaves, droughts and flooding not to mention risks to critical infrastructure and food security, but what’s alarming about this is the arrival of diseases that is only seen in warmer climates (Howard and Huston, 2019).
Howard and Huston (2019) cited the 2019 report by the Environment and Climate Change Canada, which notes that Canada is currently warming twice the global mean rate, and the Canadian Arctic warming is triple that of the global rate.
Climate change threatens the health and food security
These warming not only poses some health threats but also as temperature rises in the north, it threatens food security for the indigenous population, and impacts ice-based travels has been affected and mental health the study says.
- Health threats mentioned in the study that climate change caused are the following:
- increased heat-stroke and death from the duration of heatwaves,
- anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders are also expected to rise as extreme weather conditions continue to increase,
- and respiratory health risks due to air pollution from wildfires. These extreme wildfires are predicted to increase in number as warming continues.
- Infectious diseases will also increase such as tick-borne diseases, endemic and exotic mosquito-borne diseases, and foodborne diseases due to an increase in temperatures.
These increasing health risks from climate change are adding stresses on healthcare facilities and healthcare providers.
Global and national initiatives
Global and national initiatives have been developed as a result of climate change-related health impacts.
For instance, health professionals in Canada have been increasingly considering and responding to the health effects of climate change. They are becoming more prepared and resilient due to a better understanding of the health dimensions of climate change.
The World Health Organization have developed a global strategy that calls for the integration of public health and environmental science to work on primary intervention and work on policies that address the causes of these health threats.
In Canada, the health institutions have come together to identify climate change as a health emergency. A couple of medical students associations have called to integrated climate-health into medical education by the end of 2020 to equip health professional to deal with climate-related health issues in the future.
Canada is also on track to phase out coal power by 2030 which is expected to deliver $1.3 billion in health and environment benefits because of better air quality. With regards to their diet, Canadians have put out a Food Guide with the emphasis on a plant-rich diet that would reduce animal-based consumption. An effort that would further reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Risk of an outbreak
The article by Stanford University talks about the risk of an outbreak from mosquito-borne diseases due to the warming weather.
It describes how mosquitoes will roam beyond their current habitats bringing with them diseases like dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya and West Nile virus. As temperature increases around the globe so are the number of months these disease-carrying mosquitos will be active.
The article has shown a map of the globe that shows the regions at risk for these vector-borne diseases and predicts the number of months these disease-carrying creatures will be active depending on the rate of warming.
Stanford biologist, Erin Mordecai says, “The good news: higher global temperatures will decrease the chance of most vector-borne disease spreading in places that are currently relatively warm. The bad news: warming will increase the chance that all diseases spread in places that are currently relatively cold.”
PHOTO CREDIT: The background images for the header and featured images are owned by Karl Hipolito and they were used with permission from him.