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

 

climate change ice

(UN Environment, 2019)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Kim van Daalen, a prospective 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.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

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

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

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

Can the EU really make Google and Facebook pay publishers and media?

The first new university in the UK for 40 years is taking a very different approach to education

Yellen and Draghi tell Trump and markets not to expedite the next crisis

The race for Driverless vehicles: where is the industry heading?

ECB: A revolutionary idea to revitalize the European economy with cheap loans to SMEs

Tackling youth unemployment through the eyes of a European entrepreneur

Amsterdam is getting a 3D-printed bridge

The impact of refugees on the European healthcare system

11 lessons the history of business can teach us about its future

DR Congo Ebola centre attacks could force retreat against the deadly disease, warns UN health chief

Draghi left alone with no hope of boosting EU growth as Merkel just focuses on next elections

A bad marriage can be as unhealthy as smoking and drinking

Eurozone: Inflation plunge to 0.4% in July may trigger cataclysmic developments

Ebola in DR Congo: UN chief ‘outraged’ by recent killings of civilians and health workers

Turkey’s foreign bribery enforcement framework needs to be urgently strengthened and corporate liability legislation reformed

Alarming level of reprisals against activists, human rights defenders, and victims – new UN report

Cultural Intelligence: the importance of changing perspectives

daniela-runchi-jade-president__

A Sting Exclusive: “Education in Europe, fostering skills development inside and outside the school system”

Erasmus+ 2021-2027: more people to experience learning exchanges in Europe

EU imposes provisional anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels

Saudi Arabia must halt air strikes in Yemen, says UN panel

Will Cameron succeed in keeping UK inside the EU and reverse the present economic downturn?

Paradise islands of Pacific increasingly vulnerable to climate change, as UN boosts resilience

Don’t dismiss start-ups founded by millennials. This is how they succeed

In the future of work it’s jobs, not people, that will become redundant

Venezuelans brave torrential border river, face exploitation, abuse – UN urges greater protection

Entrepreneurial leadership: what does it take to become a leader?

EU-UK: A deal synonymous to ‘remain’, England pays the Irish price

Manipulating privacy and reaping the benefits of technology

October’s EU strong digital mix: From Safe Harbour to Net Neutrality, Roaming and Snowden

UN forum to bring ‘big space data’ benefits to disaster response in Africa

Youth Entrepreneurship Issue of the month: JEN, organisers of JADE October Meeting, on why JEs should come together

Right2Water initiative: Is the Commission ready to listen to citizens?

Top UN officials strongly condemn ‘horrible terrorist act’ in Nairobi

A Europe that protects: EU customs seized over 31 million fake goods at EU borders in 2017

Chart of the day: These are the cities where the World Cup threatens productivity the most

EP President at the European Youth Event: “Your ideas are key in shaping EU’s future”

How to keep our cities cool as temperatures rise

Trump ostracized by his party and world elites but still remains in course; how can he do it?

How many more financial crises in the West can the world stand?

Overcoming the paralysis of trust management across a fractured IT landscape

Threats from mammoth banks and Brussels fuel May’s poll rates

After swallowing effortlessly the right to be forgotten time for Google Ads now to behave

Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

EU Commission accuses Germany of obstructing growth and the banking union

E-cigars: Improbable ally or enemy in disguise?

The big challenge of leadership and entrepreneurship in Europe

Spain will soon overtake Japan in life expectancy rankings. Here’s why

Rights experts call for greater protection of indigenous people during migration

‘Wanton destruction’ in Sudan’s Darfur region, ‘blatant violation’ of international law

May led Britain to chaos, now looks for way out with unpredictable DUP

The sustainable fashion revolution is well underway. These 5 trends prove it

June infringements package: key decisions

The new general election will secure Greece’s position in Eurozone; at least for some time

‘World’s deadliest sea crossing’ claimed six lives a day in 2018: UN refugee agency

Who is to pay for Trump’s trade war against China?

UN Security Council offers Yemen Special Envoy ‘their full support’

Commission sets moderate greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030

DR Congo: Insecurity and attacks mean Ebola will keep spreading, warns world health agency

Who cares about the unity of Ukraine?

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