5 ways climate change is already hurting your health
Heat-related illness – As the planet gets warmer, people across the globe are beginning to feel the heat. More heat-related deaths are occurring. Heat waves aggravate illnesses like asthma, diabetes, mental health disorders and kidney disease.
Infectious disease – As climate change alters environmental conditions across the planet, so too does it affect the geographic distribution of infectious diseases. Warmer temperatures around the globe cause rising sea levels, warmer seawater, and either more frequent or increasingly severe natural disasters like hurricanes and flood. And each of these events is associated with a range of infectious diseases, including life-threatening diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, and skin infections.
Extreme weather events – 2020 has also witnessed a record-breaking hurricane season as well as wildfires and floods across the globe — and climate change is thought to be contributing to the severity of all of these extreme weather events.
Air quality – Another way climate change affects human health is through its impact on air quality. While the burning of fossil fuels directly pollutes the air, global warming that’s a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion also contributes to and exacerbates worsening air quality. Increasing wildfires also impact of air quality.
Mental health and trauma – The psychosocial impact of extreme weather events is huge. People have their possessions and homes destroyed. They must move and rebuild and often are doing so with much of their wealth obliterated. This can cause significant mental distress, rates of depression and anxiety, as well as PTSD rise in survivors of such events.
Satellite images confirm uneven impact of climate change
Researchers have been following vegetation trends across the planet’s driest areas using satellite imagery from recent decades. They have identified a troubling trend: Too little vegetation is sprouting up from rainwater in developing nations, whereas things are headed in the opposite direction in wealthier ones. As a result, the future could see food shortages and growing numbers of climate refugees.
More than 40 percent of Earth’s ecosystems are arid, an amount that is expected to increase significantly over the course of the 21st century. Some of these areas, such as those in Africa and Australia may be savannah or desert, where sparse rainfall has long been the norm. Within these biomes, vegetation and wildlife have adapted to making use of their scant water resources, but they are also extraordinarily vulnerable to climate change.
Conversely, vegetation in arid areas of the world’s wealthier countries seems to be coping better with climate change. This is likely due to the intensification and expansion of larger farms, where more economic resources allow for, among other things, irrigation and fertilization.