For the past few blog posts, we have explored the causes of climate change, the effects, the little actions we can take to keep from Earth from warming more than 2 degrees, as well as the influential environmentalists whom deserves our attention. Today, i will be talking about an effect of climate change that people normally neglect and forget about - the rise of heat related illness and disease due to climate change.
Temperature rise not only affects our environment (eg. aquatic animals and plants), it affects humans as well. This 'effect' does not encompass us sweating more due to warm weather or the weather fluctuations we experience due to climate change. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths due to heat-related illness. Recalling the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed about 20-35 thousands of people, scientists have claimed that the extreme weather was largely due to climate change, blaming the rising sea temperatures as well as other factors such as unusual conditions in the tropics. As average global temperature increases, such heat waves will definitely become more frequent, more intense and would last for a longer period of time. Human exposure to extreme heat can pose serious consequences such as heat stroke, heat rash and heat cramps. This is definitely a warning for us to take action to mitigate climate change.
What is the first disease you think about when we discuss about heat-related diseases?
For me, it has to be dengue fever, a prominent illness in Singapore due to the warm weather and humid levels. The Singaporean Government has done its part in raising awareness about dengue fever as well as how to prevent it. For other countries especially sub-saharan Africa , malaria is a disease that impacts many, especially vulnerable children and pregnant women.
Warmer temperatures allow disease-carrying insects, animals and microbes to have a higher chance of survival, even in regions where it was unable to survive before. Global rise in temperature increases the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Often, such heat-related diseases have no cure and can only be reduced through prevention moves.
Climate change not only impacts our environment, it also impacts us humans. It is hard for us to turn our heads away from climate change, especially with its strong impact on us and our precious flora and fauna. It is not too late for us to take action now, for Earth to be warmer by less than 2 degrees.
Physicians for social responsibility (2015 )Climate Change is a Threat to health: Heat-related illnesses. [Online] Available on: http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/climate-change/results-impacts/heat-related-illness.html
The Nature Conservancy (2015) Climate change impacts: Heat-related illnesses and diseases [Online] Available on: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/global-warming-climate-change/threats-impacts/human-health.xml