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Climate change: how it affects health

Publication date: 03.04.2024

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, with both direct and indirect impacts on human health. However, as the years go by, this problem seems to be increasing. Rising global temperatures, extreme weather events and rising sea levels are not only environmental issues that affect the world around us, but also pose a great threat to our health. For this reason, they are not an issue to be underestimated.

These changes affect the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. In addition, they increase the risk of infectious diseases, respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

The consequences of climate change

Climate change is the main threat to human health and, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) claims between 2030 and 2050, there could be some 250000 more deaths caused by malaria than in previous years, diarrhea, malnutrition and heat waves caused by climate change.

The consequences of the global climate are many and very devastating and are concentrated especially in developing countries, adding to complex situations such as poverty.

The alteration of climate models threatens many fundamental areas in everyday life and these events can even force entire communities to forced migration, aggravating health problems caused by lack of access to health services.

The main consequences of climate change include :

1. Temperature rise :

Increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases also increases the global surface temperature. In recent years the temperatures have increased at the speed of light and now the seasons are not disappearing every year more. Increasing temperatures more favors the birth of heat pathologies and make it more difficult to work outdoors, while fires occur more easily.

2. More violent storms :

Storms have become more intense and frequent in many geographical areas. As temperatures rise, there is increased humidity which affects the increase in extreme rainfall and flooding, causing increasingly devastating thunderstorms.

3. Increase in drought :

With rising temperatures, another closely related problem that could occur due to climate change is undoubtedly drought, causing serious damage to the agricultural sector.

4. Lack of food :

Climate change and extreme weather events are also among the main causes of increased hunger and malnutrition in the world. Fishing, agricultural production and livestock farming could disappear or become less productive.

The main health risks

The effects of climate change can therefore be numerous, starting with heat waves. Cramps, heatstroke and hypothermia, in addition to worsening chronic cardiovascular and respiratory problems, are among the main consequences for human health.

In addition, due to the climate crisis, malnutrition may also increase in the future: according to the World Food Programme (WFP) the risk of suffering hunger could increase by as much as 20% by 2050 if measures are not taken to prevent the impact of climate change. In addition, drought and floods could reduce agricultural yields, leading to higher food prices and reducing the chances of eating a healthy and balanced diet.

But all this is not enough: the use of fossil fuels and fires can worsen even the quality of the air we breathe daily: according to the WHO in 2019, 99% of the global population breathed air whose quality did not respect the established guidelines. Breathing polluted air can cause serious damage to people’s health including: strokes, heart problems, lung cancer and chronic and acute respiratory disorders. In fact, in 2019, 4.2 million premature deaths were caused by air pollution.

How to deal with health risks

At this point, it is becoming increasingly clear that people’s health and well-being are closely linked to environmental and animal health. In order to address health risks, therefore, a One health approach must be adopted that involves the integration of different disciplines in order to ensure global health.

We must therefore try to adopt methods which are as effective as possible in reducing pollution. Just think about sustainable mobility, choosing walking or cycling to reduce gas emissions. These small, seemingly trivial measures could save the lives of millions of people.


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