Climate change is an urgent global issue that affects human and environmental health and livelihoods. In addition to increasing the frequency and severity of weather events, climate change is causing greater water stress, food insecurity, and vector-borne diseases. It is important that we address this crisis in order to prevent future irreversible tipping points.
The impacts of climate change on health are diverse, and depend on the region and the resilience of local populations to the current rate of climate change. Public health professionals, local communities, and local governments can help build resilience to climate-related health hazards. They can also work with local communities to assess risks and develop plans to cope with the effects of climate change.
For instance, melting glaciers, coastal erosion, and desertification are affecting human and environmental health, food supply, and ecosystems. Flooding, heat waves, and wildfires also pose major threats. Additionally, changes in the intensity and frequency of wildfires are causing widespread forest dieoffs.
Among the most vulnerable groups are children and older adults. Those in disadvantaged communities are especially susceptible to the climate crisis. These communities have less access to health care and nutrition, and are often uninsured. Furthermore, the poorest regions are the hardest to adapt to climate change.
If we fail to tackle climate change now, the costs will be passed on to future generations. We can mitigate the impacts of climate change by taking practical steps such as reducing emissions, improving air quality, and reducing urban flooding. But in order to achieve a safe and sustainable future, we must also work toward net-zero carbon and establish clear timelines for doing so.
The consequences of climate change are already being felt in many cities. The World Wildlife Fund is challenging local governments to adapt to climate change by moving to renewable energy. And, many states are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning and infrastructure.
For instance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently launched a CO2 monitoring network to measure the global concentration of carbon dioxide. Scientists are studying climate change and the effects of carbon emissions, including melting ice sheets, ocean acidification, and more. Currently, human-made greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to shrinking glaciers and breaking up lake ice earlier. This is accelerating the rate of sea level rise, which is threatening entire districts in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.
Climate change is also driving socioeconomic tensions. The poorest countries and cities are among those most at risk. Moreover, the consequences of climate change are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable groups, such as children, elderly people, and indigenous communities.
As a result of climate change, the health of hundreds of millions of people around the world is threatened. People are affected by water-borne diseases, such as malaria, and heat-related illnesses, including asthma and diarrhoea. Also, climate change is causing increases in vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and cholera. Other diseases and health conditions, such as depression, diabetes, and mental illness, can be exacerbated by changing weather conditions.