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Health Effects of the Climate Crisis

What is climate change? Is it caused by human activity? Why are health professionals so worried about it?
Humans have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and in particular they have changed the quantity of heat trapping gases by increasing them through burning fossil fuels. We already know, and have done really for about a hundred years, that carbon dioxide increases the greenhouse effect and that’s going to have knock-on impacts. It’s interesting how the estimates of the impact of climate change have not really changed massively over that period, it’s just the models get more refined. We are able to demonstrate that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, mostly as a result of human activities.
And that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for the last 800,000 years in Earth history. A few years ago, i thought that climate change was primarily an environmental issue, it was only after that I realized that it was a very important health issue as well. It’s really important to understand how climate change affects health, and what health professionals can do about it. The World Health Organization has found that already 150,000 people are dying because of climate change. Between 2030 and 2050 the World Health Organization expects climate change to cause approximately 250,000 deaths per year from heat stress in the elderly, malaria, diarrhea and childhood undernutrition. It’s not mostly about the deaths.
Climate change will change everything. In 2009, a group of Australian medical students got very interested in this issue and they put together a video to summarize what the health effects of climate change were.
are the direct effects of climate change on health, we already started to see those. So we are starting to see more severe heatwaves, more extreme precipitation events, more droughts and floods. And those are the things we pretty much understand. Our major concern is this will undermine the environmental determinants of health, the things all human societies ultimately rely on. It’s been documented that the Earth may have already warmed by almost 1 degree since pre-industrial times. This may not sound like much but this is quite important. As we can see when we have a fever, a 1 degree rise can make us quite uncomfortable.
Of course, the 1 degree rise is just the global average; there are some areas that are already experiencing much higher temperatures than that.

Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming, above pre-industrial levels. People around the world are already experiencing the effects of this, through extreme weather events, new and re-emerging infectious diseases, food insecurity, sea level rise, impoverishment and armed conflict.

Watch the video above which gives a short definition of climate change and an overview of what its impacts on health are.

For more information and further reading, see the ‘See Also’ section below.

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Global Health, Conflict and Violence

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