How Does Climate Change Affect Your Health?

We've all heard about the effects of climate change on the different ecosystems of the planet. But how does climate change affect your health? Learn the answer here!
How Does Climate Change Affect Your Health?

Last update: 03 September, 2021

Climate change is no longer just a problem for future generations. It’s here, and we’ve seen its effects with our own eyes. More intense storms and heatwaves, melting glaciers, and changes in ecosystems are some of them.

Unfortunately, climate change not only alters the well-being of ecosystems and the wild species that inhabit them. So, with this in mind, today we’ll look at the important question: How does climate change affect your health?

How does climate change affect human health?

Here are a few of the ways, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pollution and human health

In part, climate change translates into an increase in ground-level ozone. Ozone is a secondary pollutant, as it forms out of two other gases. It’s one of the main components of smog, which we all know about.

This phenomenon, in the long term, affects health in various ways:

  • An increased number of hospital admissions of patients with asthma.
  • It generates a decrease in lung capacity.
  • It can even become the cause of premature deaths.

Some of the factors that promote the formation of ground-level ozone are heat, high concentration of chemical aerosols, and methane emissions. Some studies estimate that, if we fail to take action on pollution, there will be 1,000 to 4,300 premature deaths from this cause by the year 2050.

A city covered in smog.

An increase in vector-borne diseases

Animal vectors are those living beings capable of transmitting a disease to humans when they come into contact with them. For example, mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and other insects quickly come to mind.

Due to climate change and irreversible human expansion into nature, there are variations in the normal biological dynamics of these vectors.

This can have a variety of effects:

  • Pathogens may conquer new niches due to modifications in the environment that are more conducive to them, increasing their geographic range.
  • Furthermore, the incidence of pathogens may increase in certain new populations, as they’re less prepared, don’t have as effective vaccines, or haven’t developed immunity.
  • Also, a higher infestation could translate into a better evolutionary and adaptive capacity of the pathogen.

Some of these diseases in expansion due to globalization and climate change will be familiar to all of us: Lyme disease, dengue fever, and tularemia are clear examples.

The negative effect of extreme temperatures

According to OXFAM Intermón, extreme temperatures are one of the clearest effects of climate change, along with many others.

The negative effects of heat waves on the population are severe, especially in at-risk groups. Some regions of the United States such as Chicago, Philadelphia, or Cincinnati have suffered dramatic increases in mortality rates during the hottest times.

Heatwaves also cause an increase in the number of admissions of people with cardiovascular and respiratory problems, among others.

A woman drinking water from a plastic bottle on a hot day.

You may be interested in: Heat Stress: What You Need to Know

Other effects of climate change on human health

When answering the question of how climate change can affect human health, we must also keep the following negative effects in mind:

  • The increase in temperatures produced by climate change can lead to an imbalance in the flowering times of different plant species.
  • The increase in CO2 itself, for various reasons, can lead to an intensification of pollen production. This, combined with the previous point, can cause an increase in allergies among the general population.
  • Variations in water and air temperatures, as well as episodes of flooding or extreme rainfall, can promote the contamination of drinking water, especially in developing countries. This translates into an increase in bacterial diseases and severe diarrhea.
  • The rise in forest fires due to temperature increases is also a serious problem, not only for ecosystems but also for human health. This is because of their danger and because they generate a high concentration of harmful particles in the air.

Climate change: A bad prognosis with a possible solution

As we’ve seen, climate change not only affects ecosystems and the animals that inhabit them. Its effects also have a direct impact on human beings.

However, there’s still time to act. With a series of simple steps and concessions, we can make the world a more livable place for ourselves and future generations.

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  • Climate effects on health, CDC. Recogido a 25 de mayo en https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/default.htm
  • Gutiérrez, J. R., García, M. A. M., Tapia, C. H. M., Escobedo, J. J. M., & Mayorga, E. A. G. (2017). El Cambio Climático y la Salud Humana. Biocenosis31(1-2).
  • Hernández, F. H., Cartea, P. A. M., & Justel, A. (2017). La percepción social de los riesgos del cambio climático sobre la salud en España. Revista de Salud Ambiental17(1), 40-46.