What are the impacts of climate change on human health?

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What are the impacts of climate change on human health?

What are the impacts of climate change on human health?
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Highlights:

  • Weather-related natural hazards, including extreme heat events and severe storms can cause injury, health problems, and death.
  • Short-term hazards, including floods, wildfires and longer-term events including drought and sea-level rise can affect the mental health and well-being of many Canadians.
  • Ozone depletion can cause various immune disorders, sunburns, skin cancers, cataracts, and eye damage.

Climate change is the greatest health threat of the 21st century stated the World Health Organization. Canada is already facing climate-related health threats as the temperature is increasing in the north and people are facing climate-related heatstrokes and in some cases death. In this article, we will learn how climate change is impacting human health.

Climate change is causing death and illness from increasing storms, floods, and heatwaves. It is disrupting food systems and developing water- and vector-borne diseases. Various populations, including children, older people, and poor communities are more vulnerable to climate-related health risks.

Human activities are one of the main reasons bringing about a change in the earth’s climate and impacting the natural environment, and human health. Climate change is developing into a threat to human health and putting Canadian people at risk.

Climate change develops direct and indirect health risks. Direct risk comes from climate-related hazards, including air pollution events, storms, floods, and heatwaves. Indirect health risks result from environmental and social factors which impact economic livelihoods and impoverishment, food yields, water flows, and the erosion of cultures.

Also read: How Russia-Ukraine war could hamper the combat on climate change

Weather-related natural hazards impacts

Weather-related natural hazards, including extreme heat events, severe storms, wildfires, floods, and coastal erosions can cause injury, health problems, and death. It can also destroy property and infrastructure and disrupt communities and the economy. The weather-related natural hazards can seriously impact human health by causing psychological impacts, respiratory diseases, and heatstroke.

For example, the health and safety of Canadians were impacted by weather-related natural hazards which include storms in the Maritime provinces (2021), heatwaves in British Columbia (2021), and flooding in Ontario and Quebec (2018). Natural hazards, including wildfires and forest fires have affected most of the provinces and territories of Canada.

Also read: What plans & actions is Canada taking to tackle climate change?

Food safety and security impacts

Climate change develops a risk to food security by disrupting food systems. Extreme weather events, temperature, and changes in precipitation patterns can introduce pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites to food which can cause illness. The food system in Canada can be affected by chemical contaminants which is caused by floods and droughts. Indigenous peoples and Canadians living in the northern region will be most affected by climate change on food safety and security.

Air quality impacts

Increasing air pollution contributes to climate change which impacts health. A warming climate can worsen air quality in Canada by increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires. Seniors, children, people living in high air pollution areas, indigenous peoples, and people having an existing health condition, including asthma or cardiac disease can be affected by climate-related health risks due to increased air pollution in Canada.

Mental health impacts

Short-term hazards, including floods, wildfires, hurricanes, extreme heat events, and longer-term events including drought, sea-level rise, and melting permafrost can affect the mental health and well-being of many Canadians. The threat and information related to climate change can also cause worry, fear, anxiety, anger, and grief among people.

Also read: How are Arctic animals in Canada affected by climate change?

Different climate-related impacts on human health

  • Extreme temperature can cause heat-related illnesses, deaths, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.
  • Extreme weather events and natural hazards, including violent storms, floods, etc. can cause death, injury, social, illness due to contaminated drinking water, mental health, and stress-related illnesses.
  • Increased air pollution can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, and other respiratory conditions, exacerbation of asthma symptoms, premature death, heart attack, stroke, and others.
  • Contamination of food and water can cause food-borne illnesses
  • Ozone depletion can cause various immune disorders, sunburns, skin cancers, cataracts, and eye damage.

Also read: What are the key climate change issues in Canada?

Image credit: © 2022 Kalkine Media®

Bottom line

Climate change can increase drought, and forest fires in Canada. A decrease in winter sea ice and stronger storm surges can put coastal areas at risk and heatwaves can increase the risk of heat-related deaths and illness. All these climate-related events can badly impact our health by causing respiratory, cardiovascular disease, injuries, and premature deaths.

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