While the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global lockdown led to a significant decline in global emissions, it’s still unlikely to have made a dent in the efforts to tackle climate change. Simple climate models have estimated that by 2030, global temperatures will only be around 0.01C lower due to COVID-19.
We’ve written before about the link between poor air quality and the risk of getting ill from COVID-19, but the effects of climate change on health reach further than that.
According to Harvard University, climate change has already made conditions more favorable to spreading some infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease. While they can’t predict future risks, it is crucial to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees to help limit the risk of infectious diseases.
Different Location, Different Experience
Climate change has not, so far, affected every area of the planet to the same severity. Equally, Not everyone in the world will experience the health effects of climate change in the same way, and not everyone is equally at risk. But, there is –– and will continue to be –– a wide range of existing and new health conditions caused or affected by it.
Climate change affects human health in two main ways:
- Changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors
- Creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places where they have not previously occurred
Whether it’s severe weather events such as heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires, heavy rainfall, storms, or air-borne and water-related diseases, climate change has impacted the lives of most Americans.
As you can see from the CDC diagram below, the increase in CO2 levels, combined with rising sea levels, rising temperature, and more extreme weather events, all cause problems that pose health risks. Some areas might experience multiple climate threats simultaneously, which further increases the damage to people’s health.
Some people are more vulnerable to the health effects of climate change, not just because of their location but also because of factors such as socioeconomic status and pre-existing health conditions. Let’s not forget that climate change can also affect mental health and well-being.
Extreme weather events can disrupt critical public health, healthcare, and related systems, making it harder to access necessary healthcare. They can widen the divide between the way people experience the health effects of climate change.
Unfortunately, as climate change continues, experts predict adverse health consequences will only get worse.