By now you’ve most likely heard a lot about climate change — about how it’s bad for the environment, about how wildlife will suffer. But what about human health — is climate change impacting us in any concrete, tangible way?
The answer to that question, according to researchers at the University of California, is yes. There, a team of scientists at the famed university recently presented evidence on the impacts of climate change on health. They analyzed data from Spain and compared the results with the rest of Europe.
The scientists reviewed a report compiled by the World Health Organization called “Climate, Environment and Health Action Plans and Information Systems.”
They found that the effects of climate change on health include: 1) an increase in the impacts of extreme weather events; 2) an increase of the frequency of respiratory diseases due to changes in air quality and pollen distribution; 3) an increase in the incidence of food-borne, zoonotic (animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans) and waterborne diseases; and 4) a change in the distribution of infectious diseases.
They also recorded that the morbidity and mortality rate in Spain due to heat waves will most likely increase.
Spain is one of the first European countries to have developed a climate change adaptation plan and that’s one of the reasons the scientists decided to focus their analysis on the country. This plan provides a framework for coordination among public institutions on activities to evaluate the impacts of climate change, as well as vulnerability and adaptation to this environmental problem.
For those of us living in Canada or the U.S., the research team suggests that protecting human health can and should begin with policy changes enacted by government. Policy options to reduce the impacts of climate change on health include: 1) integrating health in all policies, strategies and interventions to lessen the impact of, and adapt to, climate change; 2) strengthening health systems and public health systems to improve their ability to prevent, prepare and respond to the impacts of climate change; 3) raising awareness among everyone to promote the co-benefits to health of climate-change reduction strategies; and 4) promoting research, technological development, data sharing and information exchange across business, state and country.
Climate change is a phenomenon that can have a real impact on your health and well-being. Playing a small part to reduce the negative effects of climate change can benefit both the environment and the personal health and safety of you and your family.