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The Intersection Between the Health and Climate Crisis

The Distinction Between Health and Climate Change

The prevalence of earth warming has contributed to many adverse changes to the climate and ecosystem, which have detrimental effects on the social, economical and environmental factors of human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that climatic changes already are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually. Since the 1970s, the global temperature has noticeably risen by 0.5ºC due to greenhouse gas emissions that primarily come from human activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), forecasts Earth will continue to warm as temperature increases for the year 2100 within the range 1·4–5·8ºC. As global temperatures are bound to continuously increase, there will be significant changes to the geographical mechanisms of the weather which affect human society in certain regions.

The Impact of Climate Change Towards Weather

Measurably, there is a distribution of land and sea in the Earth because both have different thermal properties. It takes comparably 5 times as much heat to warm up the body of the ocean than the land, considering the land heats and cools more quickly than water. If the Earth constantly warms up, as responsible for the greenhouse effect which traps heat in the atmosphere, the temperature of the ocean will rise from absorbing the heat. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the average global sea surface temperature in the past 100 years has risen sharply by an approximate 0.13°C per decade.

The ocean itself has accumulated distinct weather catastrophes in the past decade every year, especially during monsoon seasons where air pressure from the ocean exchanges in the northern and southern hemispheres, bringing droughts, floodings, typhoons and hurricanes. The temperature rising will only stimulate more.

Furthermore, it is important to realize that with a change in weather patterns, it influences the natural environment of plants and animals, thus affecting the patterns of food production and the health industry in developing nations. The ocean warming will lead to a reduction in oxygen dissolves in the ocean, continental ice melting near equators, ocean salinisation and rising sea levels.

An example of this is Bangladesh, a low-lying country in the southeast region, significantly threatened by ocean warming due to increase of salinisation and flooding towards nearly 30% of its cultivable land necessary for food production in the past several decades, leading to food insecurity, which in turn can have health impacts in terms of rates of malnutrition. The increasing salinity from saltwater intrusion threatens their citizens’ livelihoods and public health and the scarcity of freshwater for general everyday commercial use. In addition, district British Columbia in Canada experienced an unforeseeable heatwave near the end of June 2021. It was a week of heatwave and the district’s highest temperature record, and has likely contributed to 719 sudden deaths. Climatologists believe it to be the result of global warming,

Climate Change Influences More Diseases

Changes in temperature and rainfall conditions also may influence the ecosystem and transmission patterns for many diseases, including water-related diseases, such as diarrhoea, and vector-borne infections, including malaria. Moreover, climate change may affect patterns of food production, which in turn can have health impacts in terms of rates of malnutrition. There is further evidence that unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions would increase disease burdens in the coming decades. The risks are mostly concentrated in the poorest populations, who have contributed the least to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

The health risks and costs of climate change

As the demands of health equipment have continuously been soaring, especially during the COVID-19 virus outbreak, it leads to certain ecological impacts. The mass consumerism of health products leads to the polluting of contaminated products and non-biodegradable materials. For example, during the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing scale of virus transmissions has led to a soaring demand for medical equipment because of heavily enforced health protocols. To accumulate enough health products requires an abundance of resources or natural resources. As such, contaminated health products, including vaccine needles, masks or more, although some are recyclable, often end up in landfills. This is the case in developing countries, as usually they do not pertain to waste management.

Additionally, countries that contribute the most to global warming statistically are the most affected by the results of climate change in the health sector. People living in the top 10 countries that emit the most carbon dioxide, will be more likely to accumulate diseases related to an issue which contributes to global warming itself, such as air or water pollution. A few of those listed countries, including Indonesia and India, are undergoing a climate problem which hinders the efficacy of their health products in the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, numerous scientists were at task to develop a vaccination to subsidise the entire population. However, those countries are unable to properly store and handle the vaccinations in the right temperate conditions, thus risking those affected.

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