An analysis of the impacts of climate change on human health

glacier 2019

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina (Rachel Jarboe, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Anna Paula Janeiro, a 5th year medical student from Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Since the industrial revolution, especially after the nineteenth century, significant changes have occurred for human life itself. Extreme poverty, from data collection in Our World In Data, dropped from 94% to an incredible 9.6% and caloric nutrition in major countries of the industrial revolution, such as France, increased from 1,846 kcal / person to 3,460 kcal /person. It was the main point for the definitive human flowering.

However, is not always a bed of roses. The environmental impact caused by the great socio-economic transformations has also brought countless negative repercussions to our environment. Still according to surveys of Our World In Data, it is estimated that the global temperature varied abnormally on a world average of 0.68 degrees Celsius, and that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere jumped from 315.97 ppm. in 1959 to 406.55 ppm. in 2017.

Increased emissions of polluting gases, depletion of the ozone layer and toxic gases eroding our oceans mean the price of progress. This progress is costing, in addition to terrestrial health, human health itself.

In this scenario, among the expected consequences in the human health area, there is evidence of the spread of infectious vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and lymphatic filariasis, for example. Several diseases responsible for exterminating a portion of the human population are extremely sensitive to temperature and precipitation, among them cholera, which can lead to death by intense dehydration, sometimes in a matter of hours. These events lead us to a negative perspective that there may be a paralysis or even reversal of the progress already made by the world public health community in the fight against any disease of endemic and epidemic potential.

The article ‘Quantifying excess deaths related to heatwaves under climate change scenarios: A multicountry time series modeling study’ published in the American magazine PLOS MEDICINE, concludes that a great part of the deaths will happen in tropical regions of the planet, mainly in low-HDI countries – especially among vulnerable populations – through heat waves caused by global warming.

From this, it is emphasized the need for effective climate policies to minimize the temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since lower emission levels are associated with fewer consequent heat wave deaths.

International agreements such as the Paris Agreement in 2015, demonstrate the human will, itself, to reverse the environmental damage caused by human actions over time. In September 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will prosecute  crimes against humanity that are practiced through destruction of the environment, illegal exploitation of natural resources or illegal expropriation of land.

Even if the largest land-based polluters have not signed the Rome Statute – North of the ICC – it is important to emphasize that this measure is a small step towards greater efforts to defend the environment and, consequently, the well-being and health of the world’s population.

About the author

Anna Paula Janeiro is 23 years old. She is academic of the 5th period of the medical course. She is currently the director of anatomy discipline, scientific director of the Academic League of Plastic Surgery at Unicesumar (LACPU) and local coordinator at IFMSA Brazil Unicesumar.

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