Climate Change - Health and Local Climate

All across the Earth, the presence and abundance of certain diseases as well as various other health threats to humans depend heavily on local climate. Extremely high temperatures can cause heat strokes and other conditions that may directly lead to the loss of human life. They can also affect the range and strength of infective parasites, which goes hand in hand with serious and potentially fatal infectious diseases. Warm temperatures are also conducive to higher levels of air and water pollution, posing an additional and more long-term health risk.

Social, economic, political, technological and environmental factors all contribute to the general state of human health. Some of these include (but are not limited to) scientific developments, urbanization, individual behavior, emotional state, gender, economic status and more. To what extent humans are impacted by climate change varies somewhat based on geographic location and the relative vulnerability shared by different population classes. Also the extent and the degree of the climate change exposure coupled with a society’s aptness and ability to adapt contribute to the general state of human health.

Human health may potentially be directly affected via climate change through increases in the average temperature. Such increases can cause more substantial heat waves in the summer seasons as well as milder cold temperatures in the winter. Experts project that by the end of this Century, the city of Chicago will see a heat wave frequency increase of 25%. Los Angeles is expected to see heat waves increase as much as 4-8 times the current average. Certain population segments such as those who suffer from asthma or heart problems can be more susceptible to physical complications due to heat waves. Also, children and the elderly tend to me more vulnerable to extreme heat as well.

Infectious diseases, especially those which are commonly found in warmer areas and are spread by insects, may become dramatically more contagious with help from climate change. These types of disease are known as “vector-borne” diseases and they include yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria, and encephalitis. Areas with polluted waters that are impacted by climate change may also see an increase of algal blooms, which paves the way for diseases such as cholera to spread.

The effect of climate change on the air quality is another huge concern. Respiratory problems can potentially be exacerbated by increased warming trends due to the subsequent increases of smog, also known as ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone can be tremendously harmful as it can damage sensitive lung tissue. Those with asthma and similar chronic lung diseases are most at risk in areas with poor air quality.

Another contributor to poor air quality is “particulate matter”, which is commonly referred to as particle pollution or simply “PM”. Particulate matter is an intricate and complex combination of very small particles and liquid droplets. When these particles are inhaled by humans, they can invade the deepest parts of the lungs. This specific exposure has been linked to several health problems.

There are other, less immediate negative effects of climate change on humans. For instance, regional climate changes can have harsh effects on agriculture, which in the long term can impact overall levels of malnourishment, which ultimately leads to problems concerning child development.