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Climate Change and our Future Health by City Tech Blogger Sean Denice

For Construction Management majors, like myself, climate change is not a new topic of discussion. From the very beginning of our studies the ethics of building sustainably are preached. In fact, a professor who has had a profound impact on my studies thus far instilled the philosophy of the Iroquois nations’ seven generation principle. Under this principle, we should always strive to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That is exactly the opposite of what is happening now. People today are living to and beyond their needs with little regard for future generations. To a certain degree I understand their thinking. They may think, “I’m only one out of billions of people.” “Climate change isn’t affecting the way that I live” “I won’t be around long enough to see the real effects of climate change.” However, in light of a recent CNN article I have read, we may all be more susceptible to the effects of climate change. This article, “How Climate Change Will Affect Your Health”, written by Arman Azad, chronicles the various ways that climate change will take its toll on the human condition.

One of the first ways in which the author states that climate change will affect the health of humans is an increase in vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases are diseases that are transmitted to humans from blood feeding insects. Two insects which immediately come to mind are mosquitoes and ticks. From these insects humans can contract West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Even more recently, the Zika virus has been more of a concern, especially for pregnant women, traveling to certain tropical environments. The specific reason for the potential influx in these cases will be attributed to the rising temperatures, increased rainfall, and prolonged rainfall events. These conditions will create areas that are conducive for these insects to thrive. Arman Azad stated that “environmental changes affect not just the distribution of insects like mosquitoes but also how quickly viruses replicate within them and how long the bugs live”. The areas affected by these climatic changes will also be wide spread, putting more people in jeopardy. Perhaps a case can be made that we are experiencing the effects of this. Jacqueline Howard, another CNN correspondent published another article, “Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases more than triple, since 2004, in the US”, and wrote, “Reported cases of what are called vector-borne diseases have more than tripled nationwide, growing from 27,388 cases reported in 2004 to a whopping 96,075 cases reported in 2016”. There is even a theory that Malaria, a disease once thought to be eradicated in the developed world, will make a resurgence.

Climate change, according to the article, will cause an increase in the contamination of water sources “when increased rainfall leads to flooding, there can be a mixing of stormwater and sewage that leads to bacterial contamination in the water.” Extreme weather events and heavy, prolonged rainfall will be the primary source of this impact on human health. When areas flood there will be a chance that these flood waters will combine with sewage. This will have a profound affect on farmlands and crops, and increase the chances of people contracting food borne illnesses. Oceans will also suffer from further contamination. In cities like New York, the sewer infrastructure utilizes a combined system. This means that stormwater runoff and sanitary waste are jointly transported to sewage treatment facilities where they are processed and returned to bodies of water. However, when there are heavy downpours the treatment facilities cannot handle the sudden influx and all sewers are diverted to combined sewer overflow’s where they are discharged to bodies of water without treatment. People utilizing these waters for swimming or other reasons, will increase their chances of contracting an infection. Especially if they have any open wounds.

This article also explained how climate change is messing with our bodies in two different ways. The first being that people are more likely to suffer from increased mental health issues. Studies conducted reveal a direct correlation between the increased temperatures of Earth with the number of mental health issues recorded. The most stunning fact of this conducted research is that because of climate change, more people may be committing suicide. While they do acknowledge that more research needs to be conducted on this topic, it is still astonishing to think that “using that data, researchers estimate that climate change could be linked to over 14,000 suicides by 2050.” The other way climate change will mess with our bodies is that we will become increasingly predisposed to type two diabetes. This is perhaps one of the most devastating effects that climate change will have directly on human beings. Diabetes is one of the most debilitating conditions a human can suffer from. I have witnessed firsthand how a person can suffer from diabetes and all the complications that can arise. Another  article shows the relationship between a warmer earth and diabetes contraction. It is important to note that it is not the actual temperature causing this condition but rather the temperature changing the chemistry of our body and organs. “The study hypothesizes that warmer temperatures might decrease the activity of brown fat tissue, which burns fat and generates heat in colder weather.

“In warmer climates, brown fat may be less activated which may causally lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.” Some of the projections for diabetes contraction from the study were “diabetes rates increased by about 4% for every 1 degree Celsius of warming in the United States. Worldwide, glucose intolerance rose by 0.17% per degree Celsius of warming” and “a 1-degree Celsius rise in environmental temperature could account for more than 100,000 new diabetes cases per year in the USA alone.”

These studies show that we as humans are not immune to effects of climate change. We, by proxy, will also fall victim to our own frivolousness. These side effects will not be limited to polar bears, glaciers, rising temperatures and sea levels. Earth is a delicate ecosystem where if one aspect is tampered with many more can go haywire. The time is now to act if we are to save the Earth for the next several generations. As these studies continue to grow and gather more data, information gathered will be used to reverse the current dire situation we are in.

 

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