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How Climate Change Affects our Health

Heat waves, toxic bathing water, and the spread of diseases that previously only existed in tropical countries. Already, climate change is affecting our health – and more changes are expected.

In the summer of 2003, a heatwave swept across Europe. The heat cost many people’s lives – up to 70,000 people, especially the elderly and heart disease, are estimated to have died as a direct result of the heatwave.

It became a wakeup for our politicians. It suddenly became clear that we must have a plan for how our health is affected by the changing climate.

Recurring heat waves are to expect more often in Europe and around the world.

We can also count on more cool rainfalls that can sweep infectious substances into drinking and bathing water. New diseases will also be established.

The researchers have assessed the infections according to how much social impact they can expect to have. The large spread of serious disease progression is considered to have a major impact and with these criteria, seven climate-related infections have been identified: bath ulcer fever, leishmaniasis, chikungunya fever, Rift Valley fever, dengue fever, TBE, and borrelia infection.

The researchers have assessed the infections according to how much social impact they can expect to have. Large spread or serious disease progression is considered to have a major impact and with these criteria, seven climate-related infections have been identified: bath ulcer fever, leishmaniasis, chikungunya fever, Rift Valley fever, dengue fever, TBE, and borrelia infection.

All of these diseases, except bathing fever, are spread through vectors, that is, insects or other animals that can spread infection. One example is the tiger mosquito. The insect is now established in Italy, France, and Switzerland, among others, and has even been discovered as far north as in Dutch greenhouses.

Italy suffered an outbreak of chikungunya fever in 2007. It started with a man being infected abroad. In Italy, he was then bitten by the local tiger mosquitoes who spread the infection to 200 people, of whom one died. Even dengue fever has hit Europeans at home when it has been spread to about ten people in France and Croatia by native tiger mosquitoes.

In these cases, the authorities concerned were well aware that there were plenty of tiger mosquitoes in the areas. This made it possible to stop the spread of infection by fighting mosquitoes and isolating infected people.

A vector that is already well established throughout Europe is the tick. By the end of this century, it is expected to thrive in large parts of Europe, except in parts of the mountain world. It is expected to result in a sharp increase in Velcro infections.

In order to gain better control over the spread of the seven circumcised risk diseases, the researchers propose that they be subject to notification throughout Europe. This, in combination with the vector control, could give a good idea of where the outbreak is waiting. Then, local information and healthcare efforts can be made very quickly when the infection strikes.

Melting ice and rising sea levels, floods, and eroded coastal areas – often descriptions of the effects of climate change on formulations of how the globe is affected.

Reports on the effects of the changing climate on human health are rarer. Researchers from EASAC, the joint body of science academies in Europe, write in a new report that the issue has been “relatively neglected” at the EU level and that health effects should be highlighted to a greater extent as a reason for limiting climate change.

To increase the level of knowledge among policymakers, EASAC now publishes a compilation of existing research in the field.

It’s important to think about why we need climate change, and our own health is a perspective that makes it more understandable. Some may feel that climate change is something that only happens far away. That is why it is important that we talk about how climate change impacts our health in Europe as well.

Many of the negative health effects described in the report can be attributed to higher temperatures. For example, an analysis by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center shows that the number of annual deaths in the EU caused by heat would be 132,000 more by the end of the century than today if the temperature rises more than two degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

Climate change also has indirect consequences on human health, for example by making infectious diseases more common. Among other things, this is expected to occur when mosquito species search further and further north. Within 50 years, dengue fever, the world’s most common and most serious mosquito-borne infectious disease, is expected to be established in southern Europe, with possible outbreaks in other parts of the continent.

Waterborne infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, are also expected to become more common in connection with heavy rainfall, flooding, and higher temperatures. Infections spread through food, such as salmonella, are also expected to increase.

Other health consequences of a warmer climate included in the report include more cases of kidney disease caused by dehydration, more cases of cardiovascular disease caused by impaired night’s sleep and poorer opportunities for exercise, increased allergy problems due to, among other things, longer pollen seasons. Higher temperatures also lead to impaired cognitive and physical ability, which can impair a person’s productivity in working life by between 10 and 15 percent.

In addition, mental ill-health, caused by, among other things, extreme weather events, and violent crime is expected to become more common in the wake of climate change. An American study that EASAC refers to shows a clear correlation between violent crime and higher temperatures.

On the one hand, the report draws a rather bleak and serious picture. We see that climate change has both direct and indirect effects that are significant. I think this is information that can surprise quite a few. These conclusions for Europe have not really been drawn or clarified these consequences in the past

But on the other hand,  the report also shows that a social change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can mean a number of health benefits.

If we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the air will be better at the same time. And if we eat less meat, for example, it is good for both climate and health. The same thing if we leave the car and switch to a more active way of transporting us, like cycling or walking

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