July 23, 2023

Climate change is humanity's most serious health crisis

The effects of climate change extend to all facets of our existence, including our health. From inflammation caused by wildfire smoke to the migration of disease-carrying vectors into new regions, the hazards associated with a changing climate will persist.

As a resident of the coast, 24-year-old Asma Khatun from the Cox’s Bazar region can directly observe the effects of climate change. 

On May 30, 2017, severe cyclone ‘Mora’ struck the coast between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, destroying many lives. At that time, Asma’s family, along with eight hundred other individuals, sought refuge in a local school. A few months after the incident, unfortunately, Asma was diagnosed with a yeast infection of the urethra. 


Men and women used the same restroom during the shelter’s duration, as there were only two toilets for hundreds of people. The dearth of sanitary napkins and clean water prevented her from contracting such infections in the future.

 

The connection between climate change and human health is complex. Thousands of men and women around the globe, like Asma, are continually impacted negatively by climate change.


Lots of people may envision a lone polar bear on a vanishing ice cap when they hear the phrase “Climate Change“. This makes sense; a Google Image search for “climate change” yields a dozen images of distressed polar bears. 


This is a very real and devastating effect of global warming, but experts are emphasizing more and more that fauna is suffering. Due to both the effects and causes of climate change, human health is equally at risk.


The climate is an area’s average weather over many years. The term climate change refers to a shift in these average conditions. It is now widely accepted that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because of the combustion of fossil fuels causes climate change. 


Mainly Some gases in the earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), capture the sun’s heat and prevent it from escaping back into space, thereby contributing to global warming.


The adverse effects of climate change on human health are both direct and indirect. People are exposed directly to changing weather patterns (heat waves, droughts, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and more frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in water, air, and food safety, as well as changes in ecosystems, agriculture, industry, human settlements, and the economy. 


These direct and indirect exposures may result in mortality, impairment, and suffering. In addition to increasing vulnerability and reducing the capacity of individuals and groups to adapt to climate change, health issues also increase vulnerability.


Emerging evidence of the effects of climate change on human health (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007) indicates that climate change has altered the distribution of certain infectious disease vectors, altered the seasonal distribution of certain allergenic pollen species, and increased heat wave-related deaths.


Each year, more than 5 million people worldwide, primarily infants and the elderly, perish due to extreme heat. The urban heat island effect frequently has a disproportionate impact on urban areas, resulting in temperatures that are somewhat higher than those in adjacent suburban and rural areas.


Transformations in precipitation patterns are likely to jeopardize freshwater supplies, thereby increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. In addition, they are associated with flooding and waterlogging, which increase the prevalence of diarrhea, cholera, and skin and ocular diseases. Precipitation patterns affect the nutritional status of the population, which is directly related to agricultural production and food security.


The effects of climate change impact the quality of the air we breathe both indoors and out. Asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiovascular health effects can be brought on by deteriorating air quality, which is exacerbated by rising temperatures and altering weather patterns. 


As the climate changes, it is anticipated that the number and severity of wildfires will continue to increase. Wildfires produce smoke and other harmful air pollutants. Airborne allergens, such as ragweed pollen, are affected by rising carbon dioxide levels and higher temperatures.


Diseases that are vector-borne—transmitted by insects like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas—are those. Climate change is likely to extend the transmission seasons of significant vector-borne diseases and alter their geographical distribution. Dengue is already a common disease throughout the globe.


However, the climate crisis is no longer the defining issue of the present because we are currently experiencing its consequences. Even more alarming is the fact that these consequences are not experienced uniformly across the globe. 


The reality is that vulnerable countries are disproportionately affected by climate change. The most vulnerable nations bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. Interestingly, those countries are the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.


As a result of the effects of climate change, millions of people in these nations confront disproportionate difficulties in terms of extreme events, health effects, food, water, livelihood security, migration and forced displacement, loss of cultural identity, and other risks. 


In these countries, marginalized communities are then cut off from dependable food, water, and health care sources. People who lack access to adequate food, water, and healthcare are susceptible to malnutrition and common water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, jaundice, bleeding dysentery, typhoid, and skin diseases.


Meanwhile, due to climate change, the water in littoral regions has become excessively salty. Due to the use of salt water in daily domestic activities such as bathing, farming, and other activities, excess salt water enters women’s bodies, increasing their risk of miscarriage.


Safe drinking water, sufficient sustenance, secure housing, and favorable social conditions are essential for public health. Climate change is likely to have an impact on all these conditions. The increase in temperature during the summer months causes additional stresses, such as dehydration, malnutrition, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses, particularly in children and the elderly. 


In addition, extreme weather associated with climate change can cause damage to hospital structures, disrupt electricity, and water connections, and disrupt health services in affected regions. As a result of road closures (such as those for electricity or water supply), essential supplies will be disrupted, and patients’ access to healthcare facilities will be impeded.


According to studies, the Global South is also the region with the highest incidence of health problems caused by climate change. South Sudan is one of the regions warming the fastest in the world and is at the forefront of the climate crisis. 


The country is experiencing temperature increases that are 1.5 times the global average. This has led to extreme weather, including four consecutive years of inundation that have submerged half the nation. 


As the climate crisis tightens, South Sudan floods and dries out. Large swaths of the country have been engulfed by an unprecedented inundation crisis, while other regions are experiencing a debilitating drought. 


Some families have been compelled to rely on wild foods, such as water lilies, because of the severe food shortage caused by the floods. 7.7 million individuals out of a total population of 12 million are suffering from severe hunger.


Climate change is likely to affect a person’s mental health as well as their physical health. Any changes in a person’s physical health or environment can have significant effects on their mental well-being. Particularly when a person loses loved ones or their residence, an extreme weather event can cause stress and other negative mental health effects.


Mentally ill individuals are especially susceptible to extreme heat; research indicates that having a mental illness triples the risk of mortality during heat waves. Those who take psychiatric medications that make it difficult to regulate their body temperature are particularly vulnerable. 


Even the perception of climate change as a threat (for instance, from reading or viewing news reports about climate change) can affect stress responses and mental health. 


Children and older adults, pregnant and postpartum women, those with pre-existing mental illness, those with low incomes, and emergency personnel are at increased risk for mental health effects. 


A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in February 2022 found that on the hottest days of summer, approximately 8 percent more individuals attend the emergency department for mental health issues than on the coldest days of the year. 


A variety of psychological problems, including anxiety, tension, low mood, schizophrenia, and self-harm, consistently increased with temperature as reasons for visiting the emergency department. In this instance, the percentage of women was significantly greater than that of men.


Recognizing that climate change and health problems are regional and global concerns is important. Because ‘nature’ is ultimately engaged in the situation. 


Therefore, at least on this one issue, all nations and administrations in the world must collaborate. Otherwise, it will be impossible to identify the source of the issue. 


The government of Bangladesh has formulated the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan (MCPP) to attain prosperity through sustainable and green development by eradicating climate change-related issues.

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