Health professionals from The New England Journal of Medicine, the Medical Journal of Australia, the Chinese Science Bulletin and the National Medical Journal of India and more than 230 other medical journals have released a joint statement warning that climbing global temperature averages will play a role in worsening health outcomes abroad. If true, this position will make climate change a public health concern rather than a mere environmental issue. According to medical experts, warmer temperatures may lead to heat related deaths, tropical infections and pregnancy complications.
Climate Change and Health
Global temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.08 degrees Celsius per decade (since 1880) and some deaths have already been loosely associated with climate change. Deaths from wildfires, heat waves, tropical storms and flooding are all regarded as natural disasters which were made more intense or more frequent from anthropological environmental shifts. However, new light is being shed on the correlation between human health and the outcome of industrial activities. Beyond heat related deaths, such as renal function loss and dehydration are only one facet of climate change’s threat. As Earth heats, declines in crop yields maybe become worse for some areas. Countries, such as Kenya may suffer because they depend on their black tea crops for economic gain. Though Kenya is especially susceptible to drought, I say that its a vulnerable nation because it will have difficulty recovering from the drawbacks of crop yield decreases. Countries that are least resilient to climate change’s consequences (zoonotic diseases, displacement from natural disasters and food shortages due to crop yield decreases) will likely be worse off. In Kenya’s case, its lack of resiliency will come from economic insecurity, which will make it difficult for the nation to adapt to sudden changes or loss.
Displacement, or lack of a stable living situation, could contribute to high levels of stress, anxiety or other mental disorders. Researchers believe that tropical diseases may become ubiquitous as climates warm. Warming climates could cause disease carrying insects, such as mosquitos, to migrate from their confined tropical existence into equally hospitable regions. The mosquitos of Central and South America, are thought to have migrated further north by cause of heightened temperatures in and around the United States.
Emergency Action On Climate Change and Tipping Points
The authors of this joint statement have posited that the effects of climate change may soon reach irreversible point in the near future. To boot, climatological tipping points may not be far behind. In essence, tipping points refer to thresholds of climate and temperature that, when exceeded, set off chain reactions which inevitably eventuate different states within a climate system. Tipping points are also likened to ‘points of no return’, in other words, arriving at said point effectively forces more dramatic changes to occur.
Climate change’s reach is already being felt on public health. Nutrition, rates of disease, mental health, the habitability of certain regions and mortality rates. The changes that international governments make today, will have felt impacts on the climate of tomorrow. To limit the extent to which public wellbeing suffers, policy makers and world leaders will need to prioritize a) drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions: which will limit average global temperature increases b) restore biodiversity: which will supplement the health of ecosystems and species, thereby enhancing food and crop security c) hold developed (or wealthy) nations most accountable for climate change mitigation strategies. Developing nations have the most resources to recover from the effects of climate change. More importantly, these countries likely achieved their economic and technological success through the proliferation of fossil fuels, as is the case with the China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan. These nations also have the most greenhouse gas emission rates to date.