Much of the public debate about climate change has centered on its consequences for the economy, industry, or even some iconic species, but all of these are less important than our health or survival.
We have discussed a lot about whether climate change is man-made and little about the changes that climate makes in man. We think of bears and redwoods more than our own species.
Put simply, climate change encompasses not only the effects of rising global average temperatures, but also ocean acidification and the accumulation of small particles in the air we breathe.
The existence of a relatively dense atmosphere enables life on earth. However, the excessive accumulation of greenhouse gases leads to significant warming of the planet. The average global temperature can rise by 2 to 5 degrees over the next 100 years, similar to what it has since the last ice age.
Outside temperatures directly affect our ability to regulate internal body temperature, leading to a cascade of illnesses that include dehydration, exacerbation of chronic illnesses, and ultimately death. It is estimated that the heat wave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003 was responsible for 40 to 50,000 deaths.
Climate change affects us not only directly, but also indirectly. This is probably the most common way. Many infectious diseases are sensitive to weather conditions. Temperature, precipitation and humidity largely influence the replication, maturation and viability of vector organisms and the abundance of reservoirs.
Since 2008, more than 20 million people have been driven to migrate every year due to extreme weather events.
A child dies of malaria every two minutes. Worldwide, progress in this area has stalled since 2000. What is worrying is that malaria is on the rise in some countries. As temperatures rise, more areas have optimal temperature ranges for mosquito disease to spread. I think we’ve had a dose of pandemics for a couple of decades, don’t we?
Although we live in a time when more people die from excess calories than from deficit, the number of undernourished people worldwide is projected to rise to over 840 million by 2030.
Due to extreme weather events and ozone accumulation, agricultural production in certain areas may decline by 10 to 20% by the end of the century. In addition, the warming and acidification of the oceans, with the resulting leaching of corals, affects those who depend on fish as a source of protein. Some people have to choose between hunger and fast food.
All of these problems converge in a final impact of migratory pressures on the population. A climate refugee does not have access to constant health care and is more prone to infection and instability in access to food or medicine.
Since 2008, more than 20 million people have been driven to migrate every year due to extreme weather events. No health system is designed for that.
Without a population perspective, we cannot understand all of the dynamics underlying the presence or absence of disease in populations. Models of individuals as isolated agents responsible for their own actions, decisions, and consequences are based on an assumption that is incompatible with models of public health determinants.