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Climate change

Climate change and health

Changes in climate have become more severe such as increasingly hot summers, prolonged periods of drought and increased periods of extreme weather such as prolonged rainfall. What is not always realised is that such changes can also have a severe impact on our health. Two recent examples of severe weather include the monsoon floods that devastated Pakistan in August 2022 and more recently tropical cyclone Freddy, the most severe tropical storm in more than 100 years, which devastated parts of Mozambique and Malawi.

However less well understood is the effect that such weather patterns can have on our health. In the aftermath of cyclone Freddy and flooding in Pakistan, residual pools of water will allow mosquitos to breed, which will result in increased cases of malaria for which there is no effective vaccine as yet.

The anopheles mosquito, the main carrier of the malaria parasite, is generally active at night and so the safest form of protection is to sleep under an insecticide treated bed net. However only 50% of the families living in sub tropical Africa have this form of protection. So warmer and wetter weather will simply increase the incidence of this disease, which infects some 250 million people world wide each year.

Though Covid 19 pandemic has caused much illness and many deaths, ever increasing changes in climate are likely to have a much greater impact. For example, heat related deaths are expected to treble in the next 30 years. With the likely rise in global temperatures, malaria carrying mosquitos could enter countries which currently do not suffer from such insects such as southern European countries bordering the Mediterranean and even the UK.

What is of ever increasing concern is the plight of those people whose crops have failed and/or have suffered severe drought due to climate change. The United Nations has estimated that by the end of this decade, some 200 million people will have become environmental refugees – where can they go and how can they be fed by neighbouring countries who may also be suffering such climate related extremes?

So climate change is a global problem and requires global solutions. What is clear from many analyses including the latest International Panel on Climate Change report is that investing in renewable energy technologies and methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions now is the only way that we will be able to reduce the impact of climate change on health.
[April 2023]

SDG Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Our planet is unique amongst objects in our solar system in that it is multi-coloured and these colours change systematically each year at the same time. Hence any observer looking down at us from outer space will conclude that our climate does change with the season and that there are living species on our planet. We therefore need to look after our climate for there is nowhere else to go.

However the Earth’s climate is undergoing change due to the ever increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere associated primarily with the use of fossil fuels.

The way forward lies with each of us to -

  • Use less energy
  • Use energy more efficiently
  • Change energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable energies whose usage does not result in the formation of greenhouse gases.

The economic argument for investing in low carbon measures now is to ensure a sustainable future for our planet as described in some detail by Nicholas Stern in his book ‘Blueprint for a Safer Planet’. Stern argues that in the light of current climate projections and increase in extreme weather events, there is the strong possibility of irreversible changes in climate in the near future that could affect our generation. So to prevent such a possibility requires immediate actions as a kind of insurance against future unpredictable changes in the climate.

These explanatory notes are aimed at creating awareness of the environmental impact of energy usage in our homes and how we can limit this impact. These notes are not exhaustive and in the section on external resources many other sources are listed.

There are also links to the educational resources and activities developed and trialled by the Changing with the Climate network which are suitable for primary and secondary students.

Limiting climate change by thinking globally and acting locally

renewable energy - home
Illustration of renewable energy sources attached to the home(Jan Smolik)



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