Climate change and human health changes are connected
South Florida is already coping with sea level rise.
The World Health Organization has recently published a report showing how the changing climate and health impacts are related. They divided the report into three broad categories: direct health impacts, ecosystem mediated health impacts and deferred and displacement or populations.
While all humans are predicted to face some increased health hazards from the changes, the poor and disenfranchised are expected to pay a greater price for the changes. An unexpected conclusion as I read the report was that females(human) are disproportionately affected by a warming climate. WHO made a distinction between sex – male, female – and gender roles. They opined that while physiology may play a role in the greater number of women dying in an event, the greater factor was the gender roles that women play in many cultures.
In an extreme weather event, women may be required to stay at home until a male family member gives them permission to move to safer ground, clothing may be restrictive and prevent movement in a flood situation, girls in some cultures are not taught to swim as boys often are.
Some of the effects of a warming planet have already been observed. Sea levels are increasing around the world as more of the polar ice is melting faster than it is being replenished. Some increase in sea levels may be attributed to increased use of fresh water sources which finds its way to the oceans as well.
Salt water intrusion into coastal wells and agricultural fields compromises fresh water sources and poisons the agricultural soils.
Countries normally thought of as “have nations” like those in western Europe can also be hit hard when an extreme weather event hits. In 2003 a heatwave claimed 70 000 lives in western Europe.
The “have nations” will face increasing numbers of climate refugees. Millions of people are expected to become homeless over the next 30 years due to climate changes. Even those countries that are somewhat insulated against rising temperatures will find that their traditional food crops will have to change. For instance, wheat is a cool weather crop and does not thrive in hot climates.
The massive displacement of people is also expected to trigger civil unrest. Situations of crowding and poor living conditions give rise to infections and spread of diseases.