If I have learned anything from living in residence, it’s that if one person gets sick, everyone will, inevitably, get sick. Living in close quarters makes us more susceptible to disease, no matter how many doses of COLD-FX we take. Picture this on a global scale. Every day that it is left ‘untreated’, climate change will increase the incidence of disease within our environment. Unlike the common cold, human health is not going to improve within a week; in fact, human health is going to get much worse.
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. The Lancet
Fundamentally, we need oxygen, food, and water to survive. Greenhouse gas emissions contaminate each of these substances, which can be detrimental to our quality of life. Have you noticed the increased smog cover in large developing areas during the summer? Smog is actually called ground-level ozone, which can severely damage lung tissue. Children, the elderly, and homeless people will become vulnerable to heart and respiratory illnesses as a result of poor air quality.
We all remember what happened in Walkerton, Ontario back in 2000. The public water supply was contaminated by the bacteria E.coli, which resulted in the death of 7 people. Extreme weather events associated with climate change, such as floods, spread chemical contaminants by water that is later used to drink and prepare food, resulting in more outbreaks like the one in Walkerton.
Insects that carry viruses thrive in warm weather, which is why rising temperatures will increase the prevalence of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, cholera, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus. Warm weather increases the range and maturation period for insects, which promotes reproduction. People become infected with disease from a contaminated insect bite, and with the insect population booming, the chances of getting bitten are increasing exponentially.
Climate change has a substantial impact on the socio-economic status of vulnerable populations and communities. The demand for health care increases due to weather-related hazards, which some communities cannot afford. Some populations experience frequent power outages during storms, which limits communication during medical emergencies. Critical infrastructures that manage waste and other sanitation systems may become compromised as a result of damage due to climate change, which is a huge health risk.
Human health is primarily independent of the climate. Eating habits and lifestyle choices are attributed to good health. Bad lifestyle choices and eating habits can lead to obesity, diabetes, and lung cancer. Some people are predisposed to certain diseases because of where they live. Human health is also influenced by the effectiveness of the health care system, so climate change is not solely to blame for these health concerns.
So can we survive without the basic necessities of life? Personally, I don’t want to have to find out. We need to encourage healthier eating habits and promote active lifestyles, which are good for the climate, the environment, and our health. As far as greenhouse gas emissions go, we need to mandate serious infrastructure changes before we experience a major health crisis.
For more information on health, visit the World Health Organization.