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Climate Change and Human Health: Understanding the Numbers

Ryan Ayers's picture
Researcher , Consultant

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with...

  • Member since 2018
  • 6 items added with 9,362 views
  • Feb 17, 2021
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By this point, it’s impossible to argue that climate change isn’t a growing problem. The scientific proof is there, and warming continues to cause an increasing number of devastating environmental crises. From natural disasters to disappearing species, we’re witnessing the alarming effects of climate change all over the world. 

But beyond the environmental issues at hand, climate change is also affecting life on earth for humans. In addition to deaths and displacement caused by natural disasters, many people are experiencing health issues from the effects of climate change. Although the full consequences of climate change on human health aren’t yet clear, we are seeing some worrying trends emerge.

Increased Human Health Risks due to Climate Change

When we think about the consequences of climate change, we usually think of huge, dramatic events like powerful storms and wildfires. But although natural disasters affected around 39 million people in 2018, there are other consequences that often go unnoticed, such as chronic health problems directly or indirectly caused by climate change.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has already identified many different health consequences that have been linked to climate change. Some of these include:

  • Mental health issues related to displacement and other effects of natural disasters, beach erosion, and wildfires
  • Heatstroke and cardiovascular events caused by increased average temperatures
  • Increased pollen concentrations causing allergic reactions and affecting humans’ quality of life
  • Allergens and increased air pollution worsen asthma and can cause other related chronic respiratory conditions
  • An increase in vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and Zika with warming temperatures that are hospitable to insects
  • Food and water insecurity from changes in crop yields and drought, posing a range of health risks

Unfortunately, these devastating human health problems will only get worse over time if we can’t effectively address climate change. Vulnerable communities, which are already struggling, will face the worst of these consequences unless we act fast.

Human Health and Climate Change in Numbers

Although researchers are actively gathering data on the human health consequences of climate change, it’s difficult to pin down the true scope of the problem. With so many people being affected all over the world in different ways, we can only make approximate measurements. However, these estimates are sobering enough to take very seriously.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), even just a subset of these climate change-related issues could cause around 250,000 more deaths between 2030-2050, with the following breakdown:

  • 38,000 elderly people, from heat exposure
  • 48,000 from diarrhea
  • 60,000 from malaria
  • 95,000 children from malnutrition

Wealthy people with access to air conditioning and food shipped in from all over the world may not feel the brunt of the issue for a while. But it is absolutely crucial that every person on the planet understands the true impact of climate change on our way of life so we can prevent the deaths of the most vulnerable people around the globe, including children and the elderly.

If climate change gets worse, so will the impact on our overall health. The planet will become unsustainable and eventually, no one will be able to avoid the impact of climate change on their quality of life. Right now, the problem is only projected to become more severe.

The Benefits of Optimizing Environmental Health for Human Well Being

That’s a lot of bad news for the planet and the human race. But the good news is that creating a more sustainable world is a win-win. Not only will taking steps to stop climate change help us to preserve our natural spaces and reduce natural disasters, but it will also improve our health and well-being.

From the air you breathe to the roads you drive on, the environment around you impacts your health. Consider that 23% (almost a quarter!) of all deaths could be prevented, based on environmental factors. When you live in a cleaner, more sustainable environment, you’ll be healthier, happier, and live longer.

We have to realize that as humans, we have created many of these unhealthy environments. The good news is that we have the power to change things. We can all work toward optimal human and environmental health!

Volunteer to Improve the Environment in Your Community & Around the World

Knowing that the environment can affect your health and the health of those around you is the first step. The next is to take action. Volunteering is a great way to help the initiatives that are already underway in your community and worldwide.

Do some research and find some organizations you can help. Everyone has skills they can contribute. If we all work together, we can look forward to a healthier planet and healthier communities!

 

Discussions
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 17, 2021

These are important factors to remember when debating climate action-- whether at a policy or corporate level, especially recognizing the likelihood/certainty these impacts hit disadvantaged communities first. Another argument for 'consider the costs of inaction, not just the costs of action'

Ryan Ayers's picture
Thank Ryan for the Post!
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