Climate change is not just a concern for the future; it’s threatening people’s health now. It affects everyone from infants to the elderly and is affecting more people throughout the world. At the beginning of April, the President’s administration released a report that details the ways that climate change is affecting people’s health in the United States. The report is a unification of research conducted over three years by about a hundred weather and health experts.
Hotter temperatures are associated with more heat-related illnesses. As greenhouse gases deplete the ozone layer and hold heat closer to the earth, global temperatures are gradually increasing. Hotter summers are leading to more deaths and illnesses associated with extreme temperatures. The thinner ozone layer means that people need more sun protection than they did ten years ago.
The good news: We’re finding more innovative ways to combat this problem. Sun protective clothing blocks 98 percent of UV radiation, providing better protection than sunscreen alone.
Climate change has led to a decline in air quality. As climate changes, so do weather patterns. This affects the levels of pollutants and allergens both outdoors and indoors. This is leading to increased cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
The good news: We can counteract some of the pollution induced by climate change, like ground-level ozone, by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Climate change is leading to more vector-borne diseases. In other words, diseases that are passed along by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas are becoming more widespread. Warmer temperatures are extending the Lyme disease season, for example.
The good news: Humans are able to adapt to vector-borne diseases by controlling the insects that carry disease or protecting ourselves against them. Taking a proactive approach to this issue can help people educate themselves about possible risks and reduce their exposure.
Climate change is affecting the food system. Weather changes and extreme events can reduce the availability of food by disrupting distribution or causing spoilage or contamination. In addition, increased levels of CO2 are leading some plants to produce more carbohydrates at the expense of protein and other vital minerals.
The good news: Although the whole foods movement has cast fortified foods in a negative light, scientists are working on creating crops that contain higher levels of vital nutrients and minerals. Paying attention to getting a well-balanced diet will become more important than ever before.
Climate change is occurring so gradually that we often think it’s not something we have to worry about right now. However, we can take action to protect ourselves from climate change—and even slow it down—if we know what to do about it.
Take personal action by: • Using sunscreen on a daily basis. • Wearing sun protective clothing to shield yourself from the increased intensity of the sun’s rays. • Using insect repellant. • Preventing mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by eliminating standing water. • Doing what you can to reduce your carbon footprint. • Eating a well-balanced diet and concentrating on sourcing your food seasonally and locally.