Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

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Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health
Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

The impact of climate change on our physical and mental health

A recent report from the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change states that, if global warming continues unchecked, hundreds of millions of people will be exposed to increased climate-related risks through 2050, with the poorest regions and people being most affected (Lancet, 2015).

These global health risks include more severe droughts, floods, and heat waves, which can lead to malnutrition and food shortages, water-borne diseases, respiratory diseases and mental health problems.

Global warming is affecting the lives of millions

Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health
Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

It is about to become a major public health issue, with serious implications for our long-term well-being.

Yet there is little evidence that we are taking any meaningful action to reverse it.

For example, low-lying areas in Bangladesh are experiencing sea level rise at a rate of 4mm per year, making coastal flooding more likely.

As a result, increased migration and overcrowding are leading to rises in vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

This year, one million new cases have been reported in affected areas already.

Without effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, these problems will only get worse as temperatures continue to rise.

The effects of global warming will not be limited to poorer countries.

Europe has experienced an increase in heat waves since 1980 and experts predict that by 2050 over 70% of Europeans will experience 20 days or more of extreme heat each year.

Such events can lead to dehydration, exhaustion and death among vulnerable groups such as children, older people and those who work outdoors.

How sea level rise is affecting coastal communities?

As coastal waters warm, sea levels rise, weather becomes more extreme, habitats deteriorate and threats to human health increase.

Coastal communities are being directly impacted by these changes, rising tides cause erosion and flooding.

Warmer ocean temperatures lead to massive die-offs of coral reefs that protect coastlines from erosion.

As a result disappearing mangroves harm those that live along coastlines because they provide food, protection from storms and nurseries for fisheries.

The poor in developing countries suffer first as seas erode shorelines. Rising sea levels contribute to storm surges that can damage homes.

Water contamination from runoff is a growing problem when higher water levels contaminate groundwater supplies.

For example, Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of people and left many homeless.

In addition to their immediate needs such as shelter, food and water, victims also face long-term problems such as mental illness (e.g., post traumatic stress disorder) or chronic disease (e.g., heart disease).

They may be unable to return home or find work again if their neighborhoods have been destroyed or are unsafe due to contaminated drinking water or moldy buildings damaged by high winds or flooding caused by hurricanes.

Marine life is impacted by pollution and chemical runoff

Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health
Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

All marine life including humans depend on a healthy, stable environment to survive.

In recent years, we have seen dramatic changes in ocean ecosystems due to pollution, overfishing, chemical runoff from farms and urban development, and warming temperatures due to climate change.

For example, overfishing has upset marine food chains by removing predators that keep populations balanced.

Chemical runoff creates dead zones where fish cannot survive, warmer water makes it harder for phytoplankton (plant-like organisms at the base of every marine food chain) to grow quickly enough to support larger fish species.

Acidification harms coral reefs that provide shelter for fish as well as habitats for diverse forms of life, flooding destroys coastal wetlands which provide breeding grounds for fish species.

These are just some examples of how climate change is impacting marine life, but all living things are impacted by these changes.

Air quality impacts respiratory conditions

Air pollution is associated with both lung and heart disease, especially in children.

The effects of air pollution are most severe in developing countries, however, even in North America, many cities have experienced a dramatic increase in smog over recent decades.

A 2015 study found that Los Angeles suffers from more polluted air than any other city in North America.

Air quality is particularly poor during winter months when burning wood or coal for heating increases emissions.

When we breathe polluted air, pollutants can get into our lungs and cause irritation or damage to cells.

Inhaling particulate matter has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and asthma.

In addition to its direct effects on respiratory health, air pollution may also be indirectly linked to depression through its effect on sleep patterns.

For example, if you live in an area where it is hard to find clean air outside your home (or if you simply don’t want your kids playing outside), you might be inclined to spend more time indoors and less time exercising outdoors in order to avoid exposure.

While there is no direct evidence linking outdoor exercise directly with improved mood or reduced symptoms of depression, there is some evidence that it may help reduce stress levels and improve sleep patterns (which are important factors in depression).

How drought affects agriculture, water supplies, & public health?

Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health
Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

Drought affects agriculture, water supplies, & public health.

Droughts usually strike isolated areas in short-term cycles, however, if an area has several consecutive years of drought, it is considered a major catastrophe to all living things and their ecosystems that are affected by drought conditions.

The two main types of droughts are meteorological droughts (short-term) which occur when precipitation falls below normal levels for 3 or more months, and hydrological droughts (longer-term) which occur when reservoirs reach low levels due to declining precipitation over a period of 3 or more years.

Water scarcity can lead to conflicts between nations, states, communities, households and individuals.

As water becomes scarcer in many parts of the world, people will be forced to compete with each other for access to water resources.

Water scarcity may also lead to increased cases of disease outbreaks such as cholera and typhoid fever because these diseases thrive in warm temperatures where people do not have access to clean drinking water.

In addition, crop yields will decrease because farmers cannot irrigate their crops during dry seasons resulting in higher food prices at local markets.

Many developing countries will be most affected by these changes because they have limited resources and infrastructure needed to cope with severe weather events caused by climate change such as floods and droughts (IPCC).

As temperatures rise, people in certain regions are more likely to lash out violently.

A new study shows how climate change can affect interpersonal violence.

Since 2000, both interpersonal violence and global temperature have increased around the world  which raises two important questions.

Do they share a link? Can an area’s warming affect whether people turn violent toward one another? A new study shows that rising temperatures in many areas may indeed encourage conflict.

Here is why​ ​​​​​​Climate change is already increasing infectious disease transmission by insects like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.

But those infected aren’t just getting sick, their illnesses also carry with them some psychological changes such as aggressive behavior that can increase chances for conflicts with others, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health
Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

For example, if you are feeling feverish from mosquito-borne West Nile virus or dengue fever (also spread by mosquitoes), you might be more likely to react aggressively toward others who annoy you because your brain isn’t working as well as it normally does.

And those feelings of aggression could lead you to say or do something you had later regret like punching someone in traffic.

Risks to human safety are increasing every year as temperatures rise

Those living in areas prone to natural disasters like floods, landslides, earthquakes or hurricanes face an increased risk of injury or death.

Those who live in urban areas vulnerable to a rise in temperatures often have no choice but to stay in their homes, where heat-related illness can occur.

These conditions also exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions such as respiratory illnesses and cancer.

In addition, there is growing evidence that suggests that changing weather patterns can cause long-term mood disorders like depression.

With hotter days leading to more irritability, lack of concentration and fatigue at work or school  which in turn leads to reduced productivity.

It is clear how climate change could seriously affect our quality of life.

So what do we do? We should not just sit around and wait for these problems to get worse, instead we need to find ways to prevent them from happening.

One way is by raising awareness of these issues so that people know how they are affected and what they can do about it.

The best thing you can do is take action now, before you become a victim yourself.

Rising temperatures increase violence in some areas, decrease in others

Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health
Climate change: Its impact on our physical and mental health

A recent study has concluded that a rise in temperature by 1° Celsius increases a country’s risk of armed conflict by 14 percent.

Violence occurs more often in tropical regions than temperate ones, researchers found, although they weren’t sure why.

Some theorize that because tropical areas are poorer, crime is more rampant when temperatures rise.

Another possibility is that hotter countries have less government-controlled territory, creating large ungoverned areas where criminal groups can thrive.

Whatever the case may be, it appears warming trends could lead to even more violence as rising temperatures continue around much of the world.

Animals in extreme environments suffer from heat stress, malnutrition, impaired reproduction, and death

 These are the things that make sense in extreme environments.

And according to a report from CICERO (Norwegian Center for Climate Services), expect people living in those conditions to experience many similar effects.

The report, A Human Health Perspective of Future Climate Change, says that malnutrition and impaired reproductive capacities will be common results as humans are forced to live in more extreme climates.

The authors say climate change could cause a mental breakdown or exacerbate other existing problems with anxiety, depression, etc.

For example, extended periods of flooding due to rising sea levels could lead to mental illness through exposure to mold or bacteria.

Warmer temperatures will also increase exposure to disease-carrying insects like mosquitos which would lead to increased diseases such as malaria that thrive in warmer climates.

Mental health issues caused by these changes will most likely go untreated since people may not have access to proper medical care.

Conclusion

Recent studies have indicated that there may be a link between climate change, or rapid environmental changes in general, and various human diseases.

Examples include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome.

While it is likely that many other diseases will also be linked to climate change in years to come.

All these conditions can have a major effect on quality of life for sufferers but may also prove to be expensive for society as a whole.

For example, if people are more likely to develop heart disease due to increased temperatures, they are more likely to die earlier and so reduce their economic productivity over their lifetime.

In addition, treating all these different illnesses may become very costly indeed.

Although we cannot yet predict exactly how much an individual’s health will suffer from climate change, it seems prudent to take preventative action now rather than later.

The best way we can do that is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally through greater government intervention in energy production and consumption.

This would help mitigate some of the worst effects of global warming while also improving our overall health as a species.

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