A silent killer: the impact of a changing climate on health

Climate Change Europe

(European Environment Agency, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Kim van Daalen, a prospect Public Health master student at Cambridge University, currently living in the Netherlands. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The last decades, the political debate about climate change has remarkedly increased, as did, unfortunately, the urgency of this matter. After the announcement of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the debate has heated up over the last couple weeks. Terms as emission, greenhouse gas effect, deforestation, climate justice and energy efficiency enter the debate on a daily basis. Even more fundamental in this debate are the two terms; ‘’mitigation’’, any human intervention to reduce the human impact on the climate system, and ‘’adaptation’’, adjustment or preparation of natural human systems to a new or changing environment. But what about ‘’health‘’? Is the term ‘’health’’ mentioned at all? Should ‘’health’’ even be mentioned in climate change debates?

The answer is simple; yes, ‘’health’’ should be mentioned. Every year thousands of people are killed by extreme weather events, while the physical and psychological health of millions is undermined. Yet in the current climate debates, health is still being treated as a peripheral despite its overarching relevance to many central issues. This was perfectly reflected during my presence at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where the question I did receive most was ‘’ But how is health related to climate change ? ’’. This while we, as medical students and future health care professionals worldwide, have already seen the effects of this silent killer on our current health system.

Rising sea-levels, extreme heat waves, flooding and droughts, hurricanes, degraded air quality, disease migration, they all affect indirectly or directly the physical and psychological wellbeing of human worldwide. Moreover, infectious disease as malaria, meningitis, dengue fever and diarrhoea are  taking a heavy toll on the human population. And their virulence is highly sensitive to climate conditions, meaning that virulence will increase as climate change results in increasing temperatures and humidity. Climate change will affect the health of every individual and community, but certain population groups, as among others, aboriginal people, socially disadvantages people and seniors are most vulnerable and will have to cope with higher health risks. All in all, the present health consequences of climate change are severe and will increase over the next generations.

However, mitigating and adapting to climate change can protect health in the future while preventing death and illness now by recognizing the opportunities for health co-benefits in mitigation and adaptation strategies. Expected co-benefits are for example; decreasing greenhouse gas emission resulting in cleaner, smog-free air and less respiratory disease, increased active transport reducing cardiovascular disease and obesity, sustainable diets resulting in lower rates of cancer and other disease and early warning systems for disease outbreaks protecting populations’ health against spreading infectious disease. For such adaptation and mitigation strategies to be effective for health it is important to understand the climate change health impact and its implications as well as monitoring adequately the effectiveness of interventions. Thus, although the health impacts might be severe, there are solutions in mitigation and adaptation strategies.

So while the clock is ticking and the debate is proceeding, it is time to recognize health in climate change negotiations and integrate health in mitigation and adaptation policies.

About the author

Kim graduated her bachelor Cum Laude and is now a prospective Public Health student at Cambridge University, United Kingdom. She is the National Public Health Officer of IFMSA-The Netherlands, coordinating the Standing Committee on Public Health in the Netherlands. Kim  is highly interested in research, global health, climate change and politics. She deeply believes in interdisciplinary collaboration and tries to broaden her horizon beyond her own field of expertise, as she followed several interdisciplinary honours programmes. Next to IFMSA she has been part of other non-profit organizations and this year she founded the Peoples Climate March in Amsterdam.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

There’s a global learning crisis and it’s leaving millions without basic skills

Commission introduces surveillance of imports of bioethanol, and remains open to examining requests from other sectors

UN condemns ‘unspeakable’ attack that leaves scores dead in central Mali

Online government services could change your life. But only if you have access to the internet

Yesterday’s “jokes” and sarcasm by Digital Single Market’s Vice President Ansip on EU member states’ right to protect their telco markets

Prevent future crises and empower youth – now!

GSMA Mobile 360 – Digital Societies in Kuala Lumpur, in association with The European Sting

These 4 start-ups are using seaweed to help save the planet

The European Parliament wants to stay in one place

Building a Climate-Resilient Future – A new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change

Climate change is threatening Switzerland’s stunning scenery

Promoting gender equality a ‘crucial contribution’ in effort to restore, protect our planet’s oceans

On Google antitrust case: “Let’s face it, some companies want to hurt Google and it goes as simple as that”

In Pakistan, Guterres urges world to step up climate action, praises support to Afghan refugees

Modernising EU justice systems: New package to speed up digitalisation of justice systems and boost training of justice professionals

China’s impact as a global investor; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

The quantum computer revolution: here tomorrow, so we must prepare today

UN allocates $20 million in emergency funding, as Cyclone Idai disaster unfolds

Commission welcomes entry into force of EU4Health programme

Gaza blockade causes ‘near ten-fold increase’ in food dependency, says UN agency

Marco Polo’s Dream

What the Corn Laws tell us about Brexit Britain

3 reasons why embracing the circular economy can be powerful for middle income countries

This is what the gender pay gap looks like in eight countries

A Sting Exclusive: why the environment is important to your health, by UNEP’s Head for Europe

Why women have an essential role in biodiversity conservation

Heat-resistant crops, ‘green’ infrastructure, can prepare Near East and North Africa to better tackle droughts – UN agency

Huawei answers allegations about its selling prices

Fear casts again a cold, ugly shadow over Europe; Turkey sides with Russia

Italian banks: It’s Rome’s turn to confront Berlin’s aggressiveness

These six intelligences will drive smart leadership in disrupted times

Maduro ‘brings the truth’ about Venezuela to UN Assembly; says he is ready to meet US President Trump

Brexit: MEPs concerned over reported UK registration plans for EU27 citizens

‘Transformational benefits’ of ending outdoor defecation: Why toilets matter

How much time has the ‘European Union of last chance’ left?

Does research make sense any more? The dire need for new ways to measure success

Universal basic income is the answer to the inequalities exposed by COVID-19

11 innovations protecting life below water – and above it

Health is nothing but the main consequence of climate change

Mali’s ‘self-defence’ groups must face justice, after deadly intercommunal attacks

Just transition in EU regions: support to people, economy and environment

Commission: Gifts of €6 billion and free trainees to ‘help’ poor employers

Commission reinforces tools to ensure Europe’s interests in international trade

It is me

To end deforestation, we must protect community land rights

UN rights expert ‘strongly recommends’ probe by International Criminal Court into ‘decades of crimes’ in Myanmar

Why green bonds are beating all expectations in the post-pandemic recovery

From glass ceiling to glass cliff: women are not a leadership quick-fix

If we don’t protect the ocean, humanitarian disaster awaits

Women’s rights in Asia – how far have we come?

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

‘Unique opportunity’ to resolve border dispute between Sudan, South Sudan

How India is harnessing technology to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution

FROM THE FIELD: Faces and Voices of Conflict

Why press freedom should be at the top of everyone’s agenda

It’s EU vs. Google for real: the time is now, the case is open

Amsterdam is developing a fleet of autonomous boats to reduce city traffic

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief

MEPs question whether the new Migration Pact will bring about real change

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: