Whether you’re a climate change fanatic or skeptic, there’s no denying that our earth is warming. NASA’s scientific consensus concludes that our current warming trend is unique; there’s over a 95% probability that our situation is a result of human activity.
You may be thinking, who doesn’t love wearing a T-shirt in October? But this is no laughing matter. The sea level is rising, we’ve had a record-breaking hurricane season, and certain U.S. states are at severe risk. The U.S. Global Change Research Program released it’s Climate and Health Assessment, and the results are pretty horrifying. Here are the effects of climate change and one in particular you’d never suspect.
We’re seeing an increase in heat-related death and illness
A significant indicator of climate change in the 20th century are greenhouse gases. The increasing concentration of these gases leads to an increase in temperature worldwide.
Days that exceed the average seasonal temperature compromise the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature and may induce health complications. Extreme temps can also worsen chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and kidney disorders.
The air we breathe is killing us
Climate change is to thank if you have recently developed allergies. These conditions, while rarely fatal, result from high Co2 levels and higher pollen concentrations and longer seasons.
Co2 is the leading pollutant in our air. In the past 150 years, cars, planes, and power plants have pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to raise the level to higher than ever before. This past summer saw the highest spike in Co2 levels, at 407 parts per million. By comparison, Co2 levels were at 295.7 in 1900.
Hurricanes, wildfires, and floods wreak havoc
Natural disasters are only on the rise. Wildfires, flooding, and other severe storms can kill on impact and induce major health issues. The Climate and Health Assessment offers a list of all the ways these extreme events can impact your health, and the results aren’t promising.
You’ll be exposed to dangerous vector-borne diseases
A vector-borne disease is any illness transmitted by mosquitos, ticks, and fleas. The bugs, called vectors, carry infective pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Lyme disease from ticks and Zika virus and malaria from mosquitos have the highest prevalence.
Climate factors like extreme high and low temperature and rain patterns influence the increase in vector population. This may increase the risk that you’ll be infected by these pathogens.
The one thing affecting nearly 20 million Americans: Toxic water
Increasing temperatures, hurricanes, and storm surge are all responsible for the growth, survival, and toxicity of the pathogens plaguing our waters. Consuming contaminated fish or drinking/inhaling contaminated water is a huge danger to our health.
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, waterborne pathogens are estimated to cause 8.5 to 12% percent of acute gastrointestinal illness cases (like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation) in the U.S., affecting between 12 and 19 million people a year.
Food safety and access will be severely compromised
Rising levels of Co2 lower the nutritional value of agriculturally important foods, like wheat and rice. It also reduces the concentrations of protein and healthy minerals in most plant species. An increase in natural disasters will also damage infrastructure and slow food shipments. This leads to an increased risk of food damage and contamination.
Your mental health is at risk
Your mental health is seriously at risk as a result of climate change. People exposed to weather-related disasters like hurricanes and wildfires may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. “A significant proportion of the exposed individuals develop chronic psychological dysfunction,” according to the report.
People with an already existing mental illness and those taking prescription medications are at even higher risk of disease and death.