While many of us are aware of many of the negative environmental impacts of climate change, not as many of us have considered how the warming of the planet will impact our own health and the health of those that we care about.
These impacts are worth considering, as they are likely to touch us all on one level or another. They should also help motivate us to do what we can to reduce our own contributions to climate change.
The effects of global warming on human health
- An Increase in floods
With a warmer world, there is predicted to be an increase in flooding events in many places throughout the world. An increase in flooding events means an increased risk of drinking water contamination and waterborne illness, and the relocation and displacement of human populations.
Floods can also mean potential injuries and drownings for those caught in dangerous flood waters. Flooding in buildings can lead to the growth of harmful mold that can cause illness.
- Increase in wildfires
As average temperatures and drier conditions increase in many regions around the world, the world is experiencing an increased risk of wildfires. Wildfire events typically emit large amounts of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter that can cause health problems for those who are downwind from the smoke of the wildfires, such as sensitive individuals with asthma. Wildfires can also destroy homes and other community infrastructure.
- Increase in extreme heat conditions
Increased average global temperatures are leading to an increase in the number and the length of extreme heat events throughout the world. Such extreme heat conditions can cause heat stress and heat stroke, and an increase in emergency room visits.
- Increased air pollution
Increased air temperatures lead to an increase in smog in the air, and in the level of air particulates. With warmer temperatures that are present for longer periods of time, plants are also producing more pollen, which can aggravate allergies and respiratory conditions like asthma.
- Increase in drought
With increased temperatures and drier conditions in many places around the world, the risk of drought is predicted to increase. Drought leads to a reduction in both water supply and the quantity of available clean fresh water for use by individuals and by local authorities.
With less available water resources to go around, as well as the frequency of rain in many places, there is likely to be a reduction in the production of staple food crops that many around the world depend on for sustenance. This is likely to dramatically diminish food security for many populations that are already struggling with poverty. For the developed and wealthy nations in the world, the crops that farmers are able to grow may need to change in order to accommodate new climatic conditions.
- Increase in toxic algal blooms
With warmer global temperatures, water bodies around the world are currently warming up at a faster rate than the air. These warmer water conditions make it easier for certain types of algae, which can produce substances that are toxic for humans and for animals, to survive and reproduce in local waterbodies. Such algal blooms can make it harmful to use water bodies as sources of recreation or as drinking water without an increased risk of illness[sc:1].
- Increase in infectious diseases
An increased length in warmer seasons throughout the world allows insects that carry infectious diseases, such as Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Lymes Disease to reproduce for longer periods of time and to spread to new areas, increasing public health risks.
- Increase in extreme weather events
As the climate warms, weather patterns that were once fairly stable have now become anything but stable. However, we do know that there is predicted to be an overall increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, which is precisely what we are currently experiencing and are expected to experience into the future under a climate change scenario.
Such extreme weather events put both people’s lives and health at risk.
Impacts of global warming on the most vulnerable populations
The elderly, children, the sick, and those in poverty are some of the most vulnerable populations who are likely to experience the worst negative effects from climate change. It is our duty as citizens of our shared planet that we will always protect those who are most vulnerable for any of these and other threats that can hurt them.
This responsibility of protection also means that we all do our best to combat climate change, so that they will always have a safe planet on which to live.
For more information about how climate change is already impacting the world today, be sure to check out our article Global Warming is Already Changing the World.