Climate change and Its impacts
Climate change refers to the long-term changes in global weather patterns, including changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise, primarily caused by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The effects of climate change are being observed worldwide, with rising temperatures causing more frequent and severe heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and storms. Sea levels are also rising, threatening low-lying areas and increasing the risk of flooding and coastal erosion.
Climate change has far-reaching implications for human health, agriculture, ecosystems, and economies. If left unchecked, it could lead to catastrophic consequences such as food and water shortages, mass migrations, and political instability.
Addressing climate change requires a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to clean energy sources, increase energy efficiency, and promote sustainable practices. It also requires adaptation measures to help communities and ecosystems cope with the impacts of climate change that are already underway.
Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health Health
impacts of climate change are already happening, and recent reports indicate they are worsening. Climate change affects human health and well-being in several ways:
Extreme events: There is evidence that natural events such as heat waves, droughts, and storms are becoming more common and/or more intense as Earth’s climate warms. These events pose risks to human health. More of them, or more intense events, increase overall impacts on human health.
Vector-borne diseases: Mosquitoes and other animals that carry infectious diseases like malaria from place to place (person to person) can only flourish in certain environments. As regional climates shift, the geographic distribution of these “vectors” changes as well.
Water and human health: The rates of both water-borne diseases (resulting from unclean water) and water-washed diseases (resulting from lack of washing where water is scarce) are expected to increase as climate continues to change.
Extreme Weather Events Affect Human Health
Heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and severe storms can cause injuries or deaths in the locations that are affected. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, more people will be affected by these hazards. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heat waves can double or triple the number of deaths per day, and an increase in frequency and duration of heat waves due to climate change means the number of heat-related deaths is on the rise.
Habitats Expand for Disease-Carrying Organisms
A changing climate can expand the habitats that disease-carrying organisms require to survive. For example, the ticks that carry Lyme disease are now found in parts of Canada that were, not long ago, thought to be too far north for the ticks to survive. And in Bolivia, where the changing climate has caused more rainfall, the number of mosquitoes that carry dengue fever has soared.
In 2019, climate-sensitive diseases, including malaria, were estimated to contribute to nearly 70% of deaths across the planet. Heart-related diseases due to heat and other climate factors account for a large part of this number, but region-specific diseases are also an important contributor.
For instance, Africa accounts for 92% of global deaths due to malaria, a disease spread by the Anopheles mosquito, whose habitat range depends on climate. Asia currently experiences 96% of the world’s deaths from dengue fever, which is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Both diseases are projected to impact a much larger percentage of the global population as the mosquitoes’ habitat ranges expand due to climate change.
There have also been changes in plant distributions and types and duration of pollen, such as ragweed, that cause seasonal allergies. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere promotes plant growth and can result in more pollen production. The warming climate also extends the growing season in some areas, which increases the number of days with high pollen concentrations. Airborne allergens degrade both outdoor and indoor air quality and can cause respiratory problems, such as asthma.
Lack of Clean Water Causes Outbreaks of Disease
Extreme rainfall events can cause outbreaks of water-borne diseases. Infection with water-borne pathogens is higher during the rainy season and after extreme rainfall events as blocked drains, flooded sewers, and other compromised systems create standing water in places where people live.
But drought or dry conditions do not mean you are safe either; transmission of water-borne diseases can also be higher in the dry season. During periods of low water flow in the Amazon, for example, cholera outbreaks are more likely because stagnant water allows more pathogens to thrive. In hot and arid regions of the world, people are also more likely to suffer from higher rates of water-washed diseases related to contaminated or insufficient water supply.
Combined Impacts Worsen Health Risks
Many of the health impacts of climate change are the result of combined impacts, where one factor worsens the effect of another factor. Examples include severe or long-lasting drought, which can make it difficult for communities to produce their own food. Changing precipitation patterns due to climate change can ultimately lead to malnutrition in drought-affected regions. Another example is declining air quality, which is likely to worsen in a warming world. The poor air quality, related to increased urban heat island effects, wildfire smoke, and other impacts of climate change, can in turn cause more cardiorespiratory problems.
Additional human health impacts linked to climate change include:
- Increased cases of heart disease caused by extreme heat or poor air quality
- Higher numbers of respiratory diseases from air pollution
- Food shortages and food insecurity due to changing precipitation
- Increased mental health risks due to climate impacts on livelihoods, migration, and conflict
- Not all locations will be affected by extreme events in the same ways. Between 2010 and 2020, highly vulnerable regions experienced 15 times more human deaths from floods, droughts, and storms compared to regions with very low vulnerability.
- Human vulnerability to climate change is particularly high in certain parts of the world, including West, Central, and East Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, island nations, and the Arctic.
- Communities with fewer resources will often be both more at risk of climate impacts and also less able to adapt. You can think of it this way: as the climate continues to change, the people who are at the greatest risk of negative health impacts are also often those who have minimal resources to help improve the situation.
- Certain populations, regardless of nationality, are more vulnerable than others. The urban poor, people who are very old or very young, traditional societies, subsistence farmers, and coastal populations are at the highest risk for health problems.
- Studies warn that although certain areas and populations can be more at risk, even wealthy countries with vast resources are currently not well prepared to cope with extreme weather events. Economic development alone cannot protect humans from disease and injuries due to climate change.
- In some cases, the negative impacts on human health can be lessened if appropriate infrastructure and systems are put in place. In other words, in some ways, we can adapt. For example, the French government recently put a system in place to warn people of heat wave danger and to make sure the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable, are given special care in the event of a heat wave.
- Improved evacuation plans for hurricane-prone regions, improved water treatment and sewer facilities, and other improvements can make a difference for human health.
- The solutions to climate-related health impacts are challenging, but one conclusion from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that “climate solutions are ‘win-win-win’ actions, benefiting not just the planet but also our health and the economy.”
Climate change can also affect our day today life –
we often make the mistake of thinking that it is a problem that doesn’t really affect us in our everyday lives. We perceive the one or two degree increase in the global temperature, the melting of the ice caps and the rise of several centimetres in the sea level as remote issues that do not have an impact on our health, our economy and our leisure. In this article we tell you about some evidence that global warming of the planet is here and worsening our life quality.
Conscious that climate change is a genuine concern, right here and right now, Santander has a plan to be a net zero emission bank by 2050.
There are impacts resulting from climate change that we are already suffering, even though we may be unaware of this or prefer to ignore them. The increase in greenhouse gases is making some outdoor work almost unbearable due to heatwaves, which are also causing increasingly fearsome droughts and fires, including in the first world. They are realities that we often see on the television while enjoying a comfortable environment created by our air conditioning, whose indiscriminate and widespread use remains one of the factors that causes the very problem that attempts are being made to highlight.
Without realising, we are all suffering in our everyday lives, and as a direct or indirect result of climate change, impacts that make life more difficult and even hamper our ability to carry out activities with the same freedom we enjoyed several years ago. An article from Global Citizen, a global citizen movement established in 2012 to end extreme poverty by 2030 and act in defence of the planet, provides us with several examples:
We are sleeping worse
Roughly 62% of people worldwide feel that they don’t sleep well. These are figures from
2019, before the pandemic, so we cannot attribute this decline to the stress caused by COVID-19. The cause? Chiefly the rise in temperatures: in the hottest months there are now many more nights when it is impossible to get to sleep. This is a direct cause, but there also indirect ones, such as the anxiety among those affected by fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. If the number of these devastating phenomena is increasing, this is also accompanied by growth in the number of people suffering this kind of stress and struggling to sleep.
Similar examples –
- More intense allergies and at times of the year when they didn’t occur previously.
- The ever-increasing cost of housing.
- Increasingly scarce and expensive food.
- We are losing natural spaces.
- More traffic jams.
Climate change affects us when we travel by car and we are having to endure an ever-increasing number of traffic jams. Why is this? Well, as weather patterns become more erratic, materials and transportation infrastructure are facing increasing stress. And what happens when a road, bridge or tunnel has problems? The traffic conditions worsen until it is repaired.
The fight against climate change, therefore, is everyone’s responsibility. And to make progress it is necessary to start by taking small steps, both at home and in the workplace.
Santander, as part of its commitment to be net zero in carbon emissions by 2050, has adopted agreements in areas that affect the day-to-day activities of any company, such as ensuring that 100% of the electricity it uses is from renewable sources in all the countries in which it operates by 2025 and eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics in its branches and buildings.
Talking about the some solutions that Individuals and countries can take several actions to address climate and environmental change:
- Reduce carbon footprint: Reduce energy consumption by using energy-efficient appliances, turn off lights and electronics when not in use, drive less or switch to an electric vehicle, and reduce air travel.
- Use renewable energy: Install solar panels or wind turbines for your home or use community renewable energy programs.
- Reduce waste: Recycle, compost, and reduce the amount of single-use plastics and packaging.
- Consume responsibly: Choose products that have a lower carbon footprint and support environmentally responsible companies.
- Support policies and regulations: Support government policies and regulations that promote climate and environmental protection.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Adopt clean energy sources, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and promote energy efficiency.
- Protect natural habitats: Protect forests, wetlands, and other natural habitats that absorb carbon and provide ecosystem services.
- Promote sustainable agriculture: Encourage sustainable agriculture practices such as crop rotation, agroforestry, and reduced tillage.
- Adapt to climate change: Develop adaptation strategies for dealing with the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events.
- Support international agreements: Support international agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity that promote climate and environmental protection.
These are just some examples of actions individuals and countries can take to address climate and environmental change. The key is to act quickly and collectively to reduce emissions, protect the environment, and adapt to the changing climate.
Climate change and environmental change are significant challenges facing our planet today.
The impacts of these changes are far-reaching, affecting natural ecosystems, human health, and economic development. Urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect natural habitats, and promote sustainable practices.
This requires a collective effort from individuals, governments, and businesses to work together to address the challenges of climate and environmental change. Failure to act could lead to irreparable damage to the planet, causing harm to present and future generations. We must act quickly and decisively to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect our planet for future generations.
Kaushal Sharma is a Research Intern at Tatvita-Analysts. He is pursuing Masters in Economics from Symbiosis College.