Over the past 50 years, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have accumulated in the lower layer of the atmosphere in quantities sufficient to contain excessive heat affecting the global climate. It is the result of human activity, especially the burning fossil fuels.
Over the past 130 years, the temperature worldwide has increased by about 0.85 °C. Over the past 25 years, global warming has accelerated, exceeding 0.18 °C over a decade. The level of the sea is increasing, glaciers are melting and precipitation characters are changing. Extraordinary weather events are more severe and intensified and frequent.
How the change of the climate affect health?
Although worldwide warming may bring some local benefits, such as decreasing the number of deaths in temperate climates and enhancing the rate of food manufacturing in certain spheres, the effects on the health conditions are prone to be unfavorable. Climate change affects the social and environmental factors of health such as:
- clean air;
- safe potable water;
- food in sufficient quantities;
- safe shelter.
Extraordinary high-temperature rates directly result in an increased number of deaths caused by cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, especially among the elderly. For example, during the intense heat period in the summer of 2003, over 70,000 deaths were reported in Europe.
In addition, because of the high temperature, the ozone and other contamination’ levels increase in the atmosphere. They aggravate the diseases of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
In addition, during high-temperature heat, levels of pollen and other airborne allergens increase. They can cause asthma, which brings damage to the health of about 300 million people. It is expected that continued temperature drops up will exacerbate this burden.
Natural disasters and changing characters of precipitation
Worldwide, the quantity of weather-related natural disasters has more than increased thrice since the 1960s. Annually, these disasters result in more than 60,000 deaths, mainly in still developing countries.
The increase in the sea levels and extraordinary weather conditions will damage homes, healthcare establishments and other basic services. According to the statistics, the greatest distance of more than half of the global population is within 60 km of the sea. There are cases when people are forced to leave their homes. It will contribute to the risk of a variety of health problems – from mental disorders to infectious diseases.
The ever-changing character of precipitation spread is likely to have an effect on freshwater resources. Lack of freshwater can endanger the hygiene level and magnify the risk of diarrheal dysfunctions, which killed nearly 760,000 children under the age of 5 every year. In extraordinary cases, water deficiency contributes to drought and famine. By the end of the 21st century, the change of the climate may lead to an increase in the number and intensity of dry spells at the regional and global levels.
The frequency and strength of floods also increase. The frequency and strength of extraordinary precipitation will also increase during this century. Flooding causes contamination of freshwater resources. It also increases the risk of water-borne diseases creating favorable multiplication grounds for insects like mosquitoes that carry-over diseases. Flooding also results in drowning and physical injury, house demolition and disorganization in health care services’ provision.
Higher temperatures and a changing character of precipitation are likely to lead to a reduction in the production of basic foodstuffs in many of the poorest regions – up to 50% by 2020 in some African countries. This will increase the rate of malnutrition which is the reason of almost 3.1 million deaths every year.
Climatic conditions have a strong effect on water-borne diseases and disorders carried-over by insects, mollusks and other cold-blooded animals.
The change of the climate is likely to lead to longer seasons for vector-borne diseases’ carry-over. There may be observed a change in the geographic zones of vector-borne diseases.
The climate has a strong effect on malaria rate. Anopheles mosquito-borne malaria kills almost 600,000 people a year. The risk zone includes mostly African children under the age of 5 years. Aedes mosquitoes, which are carriers of dengue, are also highly sensitive to climatic conditions. Scientists suggest that the risk of dengue infection will also increase due to the change of the climate.
Health impact assessment
Evaluation of the change of the climate effects on health cannot be known exactly. Nevertheless, according to WHO’s assessment, climate alteration is expected to cause about:
- 250,000 deaths in the years from 2030 to 2050;
- 38,000 elderly will die because of the heat;
- 48,000 due to diarrhea;
- 60,000 due to malaria;
- 95,000 due to child malnutrition.
Who is at risk zone?
Climate change will impact all groups of the population. Unfortunately, some groups of the population are more exposed to this in comparison with others. People living in small expanding island states and other coastal areas, megalopolises, as well as mountainous and polar regions, are at risk zone.
Children, especially in poor-developed countries, are among the most exposed group to health risks associated with climate change. They will be exposed to more prolonged health effects. More serious health ramifications are also expected for older people and people who already have any diseases or other health problems.
Areas with poor health developing system, mainly in developing countries, will be less capable to become ready for climate alterations and respond without external assistance.