Author: Sara Habibipour
Climate change is, undoubtedly, one of the most pressing issues of our time. Not only does it directly affect sea-levels and global temperature, but it also has a significant affect on public health.
According to a study by Oxford University, there could be more than 529,000 deaths by mid century due to climate change. And, in India alone, 160,000 will die every year by 2050 due to climate-related decreased food production (The Third Pole).
Let’s discuss four main effects of climate change on public health: nutritional deficiencies, heat exposure, vector-borne diseases, and urbanization.
By 2050, climate change will lower people’s food availability by 3.2% (The Third Pole). It’s obvious that agricultural production is sensitive to weather and climate. Yet, there’s less discussion surrounding how this affects health.
Climate change largely affects fruit and vegetable production, especially drought-affected places like the Middle East, North, and sub-Saharan Africa. A lack of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet (especially for children) has led to significant issues in developing countries related to Vitamin-A deficiency which can lead to severe eyesight issues and eventually death.
A solution to this climate-related problem could be GMOs (genetically modified organisms). However, there is a lot of unnecessary controversy surrounding them. If you wish to learn more about why GMOs are a safe, viable, and even necessary option, read this article where we interviewed Nobel Prize Laureate Sir Richard Roberts.
Heat-related deaths are expected to claim an additional 95,000 lives annually, while undernutrition comes to 85,000 deaths (The Third Pole). Hot weather is known to affect mortality and morbidity, especially in older age groups. Conditions related to increased heat include heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as exacerbation of preexisting chronic conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
Vector-borne diseases affect specific regions particularly affected by flooding (as a result of climate change). Mosquitoes reproduce in still pools of water after flooding, and with that includes zoonotic, vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and Zika. By 2050, we can expect to see a sharp increase in this diseases in Latin/South America and South Asia especially–two regions heavily affected by hurricanes, cyclones, and flooding as a result of climate change.