Climate Change is the most serious public health threat facing the world. The National Climate Assessment reports on what global warming looks like in the United States. Extreme summer heat kills more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and lightning combined. The same is occurring everywhere on the planet.
Climate Change Is A Serious Public Health Threat
Climate change is “one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation,” says Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association:
We dump billions of tons of industrial carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year. As a result, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by 40%. Excess carbon dioxide traps excess heat in the atmosphere. Excess heat causes extreme heat waves, droughts, and storms.
The National Resources Defense Council produces a yearly video that shows what climate looks like. This recent video focuses on the public health impacts of extreme heat and drought conditions from the perspective of children suffering from asthma to farmers struggling to cope with drought conditions.
Published on Apr 17, 2014
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Excerpts from the video:
Extreme Heat. Extreme Drought. Volatile Weather. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change all around us. Hot temperatures increase the chance of people suffering from asthma attacks, respiratory illness and heart attacks.
Disease-carrying insects become more active as summers become hotter and longer.
Heat and drought contribute to wildfire risks and their health-harming smoke. Smoke from wildfires can pose a health risk to people living far beyond the blaze.
We are already seeing the impacts of climate change all around us. Let’s combine our voices into a call for action louder than the denial of any polluter or politician and demand limits on the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving Climate Change.
Human Health and Climate Change
The National Climate Assessment report shows how climate affects 13 sectors such as energy, water, land use, ecosystems and human health. The Human Health Sector illustrates how “Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including through more extreme weather events and wildfire, decreased air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water.”
Climate change is increasing the risks of respiratory stress from poor air quality, heat stress, and the spread of food-borne, insect-borne, and waterborne diseases. Extreme weather events often lead to fatalities and a variety of health impacts on vulnerable populations, including impacts on mental health, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Large-scale changes in the environment due to climate change and extreme weather events are increasing the risk of the emergence or reemergence of health threats that are currently uncommon in the United States, such as dengue fever.
Key weather and climate drivers of health impacts include increasingly frequent, intense, and longer-lasting extreme heat, which worsens drought, wildfire, and air pollution risks; increasingly frequent extreme precipitation, intense storms, and changes in precipitation patterns that can lead to flooding, drought, and ecosystem changes; and rising sea levels that intensify coastal flooding and storm surge, causing injuries, deaths, stress due to evacuations, and water quality impacts, among other effects on public health.
(Excerpts from the Health Sector of National Climate Assessment Report)
Wide-ranging Health Impacts: Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States.
Most Vulnerable at Most Risk: Climate change will, absent other changes, amplify some of the existing health threats the nation now faces. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color.
Prevention Provides Protection: Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change. Early action provides the largest health benefits. As threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited.
Responses Have Multiple Benefits: Responding to climate change provides opportunities to improve human health and well-being across many sectors, including energy, agriculture, and transportation. Many of these strategies offer a variety of benefits, protecting people while combating climate change and providing other societal benefits.
The Power to Influence Policy Makers
It is blatantly apparent that we have now entered the era of Climate Change adaptation and mitigation. The latest IPCC reports have detailed the devastating consequences that rampant carbon emissions are having on our planet.
We have reached the proverbial fork in the road when it comes to climate change. As nations prepare to nail down a successor to the Kyoto accord in 2015, the business-as-usual option is off the table. The choices we make will determine the severity of future climate change. Reducing emissions of heat trapping gases is the only way to minimize future warming and future severe impacts.
Our call to action must be louder than the denial of the fossil fuel industry and politicians who are in bed with oil, coal and natural gas producers.