"Meteorological and ecological shifts driven by climate change are creating a slow and often unpredictable bloom of novel public health challenges across the United States. The American Public Health Association has declared climate change 'one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation,' although the precise nature of that threat remains uncertain."
Health Impacts of Climate Change
We’ve all heard that global warming will lead to melting arctic glaciers and catastrophically rising sea levels, which will in turn wreak havoc on the world’s economy. These possibilities can be scary, but often seem distant and unlikely to affect the average individual. The health impacts of climate change, however, hit closer to home for most people.
One of the most obvious detrimental health effects associated with climate change stems from the side effects of increased heat. According to anthropogenic global warming proponents, increased temperatures will cause a number of health problems, including, “heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, and death.”
However, other research suggests that cold temperatures are much more likely to promote death and disease. As those in colder climates are quick to acknowledge, many respiratory illnesses flourish during cold weather, and cold weather conditions like ice and snow are often the culprit in severe accidents. Research also suggests that heart attacks are far more likely to occur in colder temperatures than in warm. In fact, statistics show that deaths in the winter months far outpace those in the summer months, meaning an increase in global temperatures might actually reduce global mortality rates rather than increase them.
In addition to heat-related health problems, those concerned about global warming believe that increased temperatures could spread dangerous tropical diseases such as malaria. This idea, however, has been extensively studied and debated by scientists like Paul Reiter. According to Reiter, the insects spreading malaria are easily able to survive in cold climates. Indeed, past history demonstrates malaria to have been very prevalent in places like Sweden and the northern United States. Given that these historical instances of malaria occurred before the massive industrialization of the twentieth century, increased warmth from greenhouse gases may have little effect on malaria’s spread. The economic growth gained from an industrialized society might actually quell the spread of malaria in poverty stricken countries.
Dramatic weather events such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes are a third area global warming proponents believe could negatively affect human health. Catastrophic weather events could easily cause food and water shortage issues, which would further affect the health and wellness of the population.
Once again, however, scientists point out that cooling trends can actually cause more food shortage issues than warming trends. Agricultural crops tend to grow far better in warm and wet weather conditions. In fact, higher levels of CO2 could actually act as a fertilizer for our food sources. Additionally, historical records imply that the increased food supply which warmer conditions create leads to longer life expectancy and better growth rates.
Admittedly, we still have much to learn about the potential health impacts of climate change. They could prove to be very detrimental to human health, or they could, on balance, be of great benefit. In light of this, this topic presents commentary, scientific research, and historical data from both sides of the issue in order to help readers inform themselves thoroughly health impacts of climate change.
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