How Climate Change Affects Public Health


Experts warn that climate change will overburden public health. The review published in the Annals of Global Health specifies that cases of vector-borne, foodborne and waterborne diseases, malnutrition, respiratory conditions, heat-related disorders and mental health problems will increase, prompting the need for immediate action.

The researchers added that diseases like polio, malaria, Rift Valley fever, tick-borne encephalitis and West Nile virus disease have been spreading due to climate change. Along with the poorest people, women will also suffer more than the rest.

Low-income nations do not have enough resources to alleviate the effects of climate change on agriculture, which their economies largely depend on. According to the review, because women in these countries, especially adolescent girls, take the role of gathering water, food and other household supplies, their work would become more difficult as climate change deteriorate their lands.

Flickr/Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Flickr/Neil Palmer (CIAT)

“As global temperature increases, rich countries’ economies continue to prosper, but the economic growth of poor countries is seriously impaired,” says study author Barry Levy, an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine in Tufts University School of Medicine. “The consequences for economic growth in poor countries will be substantial if we continue on a ‘business-as-usual’ path of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations and rapid climate change, with poor countries’ mean annual growth rate decreasing from 3.2 percent to 2.6 percent.”

“International organisations and governments at the national, state/provincial, and local levels should ensure that human rights are considered in developing and implementing mitigation and adaptation measures,” Levy insists. “Nongovernmental and humanitarian organisations need to hold governments accountable in protecting and promoting these human rights.”

Nevertheless, co-author Jonathan Patz of University of Wisconsin and Madison Global Health Institute’s director, points out that world leaders have made it clear that they are trying everything they can to ease climate change during the December 2015 UN Conference of the Parties (COP21) on climate change in Paris.

Patz notes that the pledged fund, worth $100 billion (AU$138 billion) emphasises their plan to solve the inequality between industrialised nations that contribute more to climate change and those already suffering from the change’s effects. Still, the researchers clarify that an effective health action plan is needed to further help those who are most vulnerable.

Patz asserts, “The global climate crisis threatens most people and their human rights. The adverse consequences of climate change will worsen. Addressing climate change is a health and human rights priority, and action cannot be delayed. Mitigation and adaptation measures must be equitable, respecting, protecting and promoting human rights.”


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