Climate Change & Public Health: What Steps Can We Take?
Climate change is already having an undeniable impact on the world around us. Extreme weather events like droughts, storms, and floods are becoming more prevalent and the world is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of insect die-off largely due to climate change which may effectively lead to the complete collapse of many natural systems.
Unfortunately, these are not the only negative effects of climate change as it is now directly affecting the health of human populations across the globe. Climate change is a serious public health threat and should be treated as such.
How Climate Change Impacts Public Health
In order to understand exactly how widespread an impact climate change is having on public health across the globe, it is important to look at the situation from a holistic perspective. The natural disasters that are being caused by climate change not only lead to the destruction of the environments that they occur within but also pose a serious threat to the safety and well-being of humans in a variety of ways.
Not only should we look at the immediate threats to safety posed by natural disasters, but we must also take into account the ways in which climate change affects people’s livelihoods which directly affects the ability to access adequate healthcare.
Following nearly any thread of the climate change issue and it will eventually lead to the conclusion that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but a public health issue. Increased instances of climate change-related extreme weather events lead to a perfect stage for infectious diseases to thrive, a heightened number of heat-induced medical issues, and rising rates of childhood asthma.
These are problems that aren’t simply going to go away and it is important that people understand that there is a direct correlation between climate change and overall public health.
It isn’t just the natural disasters caused by climate change that are negatively affecting people’s health. Pollution released by automobiles and power plants is incredibly unhealthy for the heart, lungs, and brain and has been shown to drastically increase the likelihood of the development of both heart disease and dementia.
Humanity’s role in climate change is undeniable, and to disregard the effect it has on not only ecosystems across the world but also the direct negative effects it has on public health is shortsighted.
Why It Is Important To Act Now
When considering climate change as a public health issue, the need to address it becomes much more urgent. In addition to the damage caused by natural disasters created by climate change, the pollution released into the air and waterways across the planet have long-reaching impacts and are notoriously hard to clean up.
The longer that humanity as a whole ignores the problems of pollution and how it affects climate change and the health of the public, the worse the problem will become until eventually a point of no return has been crossed and the damage can no longer be mended.
As it stands now, many local authorities are woefully ill-prepared for the impacts that climate change is having on public health. There is a general lack of prioritisation when it comes to addressing public health issues brought on by climate change, largely due to limited professional and public awareness of the extent of related health impacts and financial constraints.
Unfortunately, this disconnect between how seriously governmental bodies view climate change’s effect on public health and the reality of the situation has placed many people in vulnerable situations with little recourse available to them from their respective governments.
Not only will pollution continue to have a compounding negative effect on public health, but the longer that climate change goes unaddressed at a global level it increases the chances for even more dire health consequences.
As the world continues to warm, diseases that were once thought eradicated are again making an appearance. Spanish influenza, smallpox, and even anthrax spores have all been discovered in melting ice and permafrost, adding yet another layer to the danger that climate change poses.
What We Can Do About It
While individuals can only do so much to reduce their carbon footprint and battle climate change, if businesses and corporations are held to a higher standard when it comes to environmental friendliness a real impact can be made.
Companies end up shredding a huge number of documents containing sensitive information, and while the majority of them use professional shredding services wherein the shredded documents are properly recycled, smaller businesses might not realise that most recycling centres will not accept shredded paper as it makes the recycling process more difficult.
Ultimately businesses should work towards the goal of maintaining a paperless office, completely eliminating the need to recycle paper and increasing the overall sustainability of the organisation.
Fortunately, as we enter the new decade sustainability is becoming a priority not just for individuals but for larger corporations as well.
More and more businesses are trying to become certified B corporations and technological advances in alternative energy, energy storage, the Internet of Things, and the rise of electric vehicles are making it easier for both businesses and the public to make an effort to combat climate change.
At the end of the day, the sooner that those with the power to make significant structural changes that can combat climate change realise that it poses a serious and legitimate threat to not only the longevity of the world but the health of humanity overall, the better.
Individuals can, of course, do their part to reduce their carbon footprint, but the onus of combating climate change in a real, workable way needs to fall to both governmental bodies and the businesses and corporations that are contributing to the bulk of the activity that results in climate change.
Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilise the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.