Climate change is our generation’s crisis. The rising temperatures have ushered in destructive patterns such as the wide-spread fires in Australia, which burned through 5 million hectares, according to Scientific American. And because the rising temperatures result in dry conditions susceptible to wildfires, what’s happening in Australia is a precursor of the climate events that will come.
Weather won’t be the only aspect impacted by climate change, as health has a direct correlation to the weather we experience daily. With this in mind, what are some of the ways climate change impacts our health? How can we prepare for the risks climate change poses to us?
What are the Health Effects of Climate Change?
The rising temperatures will have an impact on the quality of the air we breathe. Climate change is a significant producer of ground-level ozone (found in smog), which contains harmful particles of matter. This type of ozone results in diminished lung function for those who have to breathe in this environment regularly, rendering it dangerous to expose those who have respiratory problems like asthma.
Another impact concerns our skin. With the temperatures increasing, exposure to UV light can have some health benefits such as helping our bodies develop Vitamin D, but long-term exposure to UV rays also damages skin cells and even affects our vision. Our eyes are also similarly affected by UV exposure. We can protect our eyes with UV-blocking glasses and contacts, which helps decrease the likelihood of issues like damage to our corneas or retinas. However, photokeratitis can occur when the skin around the eyes burns, and long-term exposure to UV rays can result in cataracts and macular degeneration, among other issues.
Food scarcity will be another issue stemming from climate change. As global temperatures continue to rise, areas such as Alaska will face food shortages thanks to the decline in fish production, leading to higher food prices. Meanwhile, farming communities will experience droughts due to the changes in rainfall and the increased frequency of severe weather events, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is why it’s critical to understand the importance of population health, which examines a key group of society based on age, gender, or location to better grasp the health situations affecting them. Doing so is one of the first steps to preparing for the health implications of climate change.
Prepping to Reduce Your Impact
There are many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. To start, you can reduce your home’s energy use by setting your thermostat higher when you leave your home. The U.S. Department of Energy states you can reduce your home’s energy consumption by as much as 10% just by turning your thermostat back by 7-10 degrees for 8 hours per day.
And you can ensure your home’s HVAC operates more efficiently, which will improve the air quality in your home. To do this, replace your air filters every 90 days and have your home’s HVAC unit inspected often to ensure it’s clean and operating in peak condition. Doing so allows anyone in your household who has respiratory issues with breathing better quality air.
It’s also vital to find greener ways to commute. Some of these alternatives include:
- Taking a bike instead of a car
- Taking green alternatives such as electric buses, buying a hybrid or electric car or walking are all better options than continuing to use big vehicles that guzzle fossil fuel and lead to higher emissions.
All of these will help, but the most significant impact on changing how we see and react to climate change is education.
Spreading the Word
Education is one of the critical weapons we can use to fight the impacts of climate change. Health education and training, in particular, will be vital as we need to inform those around us how the change in weather will impact our health and ways to cope. Health educators work directly with community members and have opportunities to create curricula that can influence behavior at the intersection of climate change and everyday living.
An essential aspect of this is health education is learning to become more self-sustaining. We can do this by learning how to do home treatments for minor health maladies, which will keep us healthier and help us ward off the risks of infection, especially if nearby medical treatment is unavailable during a natural disaster.
Moreover, it’s also vital to have the supplies needed when disaster strikes. Along with having a first-aid kit and any medical supplies you or your loved one need, you’ll want to have an ample amount of fresh drinking water (one gallon per one person per one day is a good rule of thumb), canned food, and a hand-crank charger for your radio and cell phone. Having these supplies on hand will help you have access to the medical and nutritional items you require in the event your community faces a natural disaster.
Overall, as the effects of climate change lead to more flooding, wildfires, and other natural disasters, it’s vital to understand the health impacts that rising temperatures create. Through education, we can better understand the health implications affecting certain groups such as those with respiratory problems or those facing more geographical concerns such as fishing or farming communities.
We can also do our part by improving our conditions. Keeping our homes’ heating and air conditioning units operating in top shape improves our air quality to help those suffering from respiratory illnesses while making small changes in the way we travel can reduce our carbon footprint.