Negative Impacts of Climate Change
Climate change is an anthropogenic change which is imposed by human activities in the environmental system. It occurs both naturally and anthropogenically. Events such as deforestation, urbanization, and agriculture release 15.1 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, in turn, contributing to global warming (The Greenhouse Effect, n.d.). Global warming can cause negative consequences, such as the melting of the glaciers, sea levels rising, and extreme weather conditions, ground-level air pollution, and promotes a warmer climate for mosquitoes to reproduce and spread diseases–whereas these conditions contribute to a profound impact on human health, such as heat stress, respiratory, vector-borne, and zoonotic diseases.
Today we know that human activities are contributing to climate change at a much faster rate than our prehistoric ancestors. What we do not know is how much of a reduction of global warming is required to reverse the effects of climate change. The problem is that not everyone understands the issues that climate change poses, as well as the necessary measures required to solve it. If everyone understands the measures, we can help close the gap. Climate change could also be linked to viral diseases and could help viruses cause a pandemic such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Climate Change’s Contribution to Diseases and Natural Disasters
Climate change contributes to many natural disasters that occur all around the world. These disasters cause many health related problems in humans. Air pollution is known to release allergens and can trigger asthma related health problems in humans due to climate change. Wildfires have been increasing in the United States lately, which could be linked to climate change. Wildfires cause ground level ozone to increase, which is a main component for smog formation. According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), ground level ozone reduces lung function, worsens asthma, and increases the rate of premature deaths.
Wildfires produce ozone precursor gases, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and other highly volatile compounds. Due to the production of these harmful gases, wildfires cause air pollution. Exposure to wildfire smoke could also cause cardiovascular and many respiratory problems. According to CDC, if no actions are taken or a change is made to reduce human activities that cause climate change, premature deaths would rise from 1,000 to 4,300 by the year 2050 (Climate Change and Public Health, 2019).
Climate change also caused droughts to increase in states such as California and Arizona. According to CDC, droughts cause health hazards such as, “wildfires, dust storms, extreme heat events, flash flooding, degraded water quality, and reduced water quantity” (Climate Change and Public Health, 2019). Dust storms are linked to diseases such as coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, in California and Arizona. Floods are also a major problem due to increased precipitation cause by climate change. Floods are the second deadliest disasters in the United States. Due to water intrusions in houses and buildings from floods, they result in the formation of mold, which is known to cause asthma and other respiratory problems–some of which are: pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus, and RSV pneumonia.
Climate Change Worsens Symptoms of Coronavirus
Although climate change does not directly affect viruses such as the novel COVID-19, it is linked to spreading it and making it harder for people to fight the virus. Due to irritants, such as ground level ozone caused by droughts and floods, which are direct results of climate change, humans are finding it harder to fight the virus. Climate change is causing underlying health problems and the coronavirus exploits those vulnerabilities in the human body. Zoonotic diseases are also increasing due to climate change. Habitat destruction and weather changes cause vectors to migrate to different areas which transfers diseases like coronavirus to humans (Kaplan, 2020). Since there is no direct link between climate change and COVID-19, it still impacts the spread of viruses and other diseases, and creates circumstances that negatively impact human health.
The Greenhouse Effect. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://world101.cfr.org/global-era-issues/climate-change/greenhouse-effect
Precipitation Extremes: Heavy Rainfall, Flooding, and Droughts. Climate Change and Public Health, (2019, September 9). Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/precipitation_extremes.htm
Kaplan, S. (2020, April 15). “Climate change affects everything – even the coronavirus.” The Washington Post.” Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/04/15/climate-change-affects-everything-even-coronavirus/?arc404=true
Ebi, K. L. (2017, October 27). Figure 8.1, Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health – Injury Prevention and Environmental Health – NCBI Bookshelf. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525226/figure/ch8.sec2.fig1/