Sie sind auf Seite 1von 10

Human

health on
the verge
of
collapse
Freshman
Inquiry: Life
Unlimited? /
Michael Flower /
Fall2014
Portland State University
Soo Bin (Sue) Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse

Introduction
Global climate change is one of the most controversial environmental and
public health issues of the 21st century. It not only destroys the environment,
but it also has major impacts on human health. Such destruction occurs due
to associated changes in the environment, such as direct effects from heat,
sea level rise, changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and drought,
more intense hurricanes and storms, degraded air quality and increased
exposure to toxic environmental pollutants including persistent organic
pollutants, metals, and pesticides. This paper will analyze how such
environmental destructions directly and indirectly alter human health as well
as ways that can lead us to the better understanding of how to reduce or
prevent illness and death.

What is climate change? : What we are facing


Climate change could simply mean changing in average earth
temperature, but it has become a lot more than that. Ironically enough, as
negative impact as it has on human health, such change in climate is largely
due to the increases in human activities. We are producing harms on
ourselves by burning fossil fuels and taking parts in land clearing.

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse


So what does it do? How serious is it? These are the consequences we are

now facing:
1. Increase in average temperature: Heat waves
Climate change has led to more frequent and longer heat waves in the
summer time and less severe coldness in the winter time. Urban areas,
rather than rural surroundings, tend to get warmer which means
increased usage of electricity for running air conditioning, which then
leads to increase air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from power
plants. Not only this, but such extra heat in the climate system also leads
to bigger problems such as affecting atmospheric and ocean circulation
which changes wind patterns and rainfall.

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse

< Figure 1) these maps show number of days over 100


degrees Fahrenheit. Top map showing the past with less
hot days and then to the predicted future with more
than 50 extremely hot days.

Disease affected by heat waves


When a person is exposed to heat for a
long time the central nervous system and
circulatory system are impacted followed
by dizziness, headache and fainting. And
when a persons perspiration process
shuts down, increased body temperature
affects the brain causing the confusion and to lose consciousness. The
most serious medical condition a person can get by heat is heat stroke.
It starts from indicators like heart rash and muscle cramps, signing that
one is at risk of getting a heart stroke, in which the bodys core
temperature exceeds 105 degrees. This could damage the brain and
other organs like heart and kidneys which could lead to disorientation,
seizures, and loss of consciousness.

2. Increased oceans and sea levels: Extreme weather events


Amount of heat stored in the worlds oceans is one of the best
indicators of climate change. The heat content has increased during
recent decades and accounts for more than 90 per cent of the total
heat accumulated by the land, air and ocean since the 1970s. Ocean
Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse

warming is continuing, especially in the top several hundred meters of


the ocean. Sea surface temperatures in the Australian region have
increased every decade since 1900. Global sea levels have risen at an
average rate of 1.8 millimeters per year over 1961 to 2003. This rate
rose to around 3.2 millimeters per year from 1993 to 2012. Since 1993,
the rates of sea level rise to Australias north and northwest have been
7 to 11 millimeters per year, with rates of sea level rise on the central
east and southern coasts between 2 to 5 millimeters per year. Current
scientific understanding indicates that natural climate variability is the
driver of this temporary higher rate of regional rate. So why is this such
a threat to the environment? Ocean plays a critical role in transporting
heat and carbon around the planet, and even regulating the climate.
When this is not worked out as it is meant to be, extreme natural
weather disasters like flooding, storms, extremely hot days and
droughts.

Disease affected by extreme weather events


Flooding and storms: The most frequent natural weather disaster
was found to be flooding (43%), killing almost 100,000 people
and affecting over 1.2 billion people. Floods result most likely
from sea level rise. It interrupts communication, utility, and
health care services which blocks people from getting help that
they need. It also contributes to carbon monoxide poisoning from
portable electric generators used during and after storms. But

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse

most importantly, as a direct impact on human health, it causes


stomach and intestinal illnesses with outbreaks of diarrhea
especially in the tropical and subtropical regions with crowding
and poverty. Furthermore, such destruction followed by floods
and storms contributes to mental health impacts such as
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Extremely hot days: High temperature mostly results in the
creation of infectious bacterial diseases like dengue fever,
salmonella, malaria, and cholera bacteria. As temperatures
increase and rainfall patterns change mosquitoes, cause of
dengue fever, can remain active for longer seasons and in wider
areas, greatly increasing the risk for people who live there.
Nearly 4,000 cases of imported and locally-transmitted Dengue
Fever were reported in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005, and
that number rises to 10,000 when cases in the Texas-Mexico
border region are included. Dengue Fever shows symptoms like
high fever, headaches, bone and joint aches, and a rash.

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse

How is our future?

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse


According to a recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO), climate
8
change will be the cause of roughly 250,000 more deaths by 2030. And that is,

roughly 48,000 will be due to diarrhea; 60,000 from malaria; 95,000 from
under-nutrition during childhood; and 38,000 from heat exposure, according
to the new report. Many scientists strongly believe that global temperatures
will continue to rise for decades, largely due to greenhouse gasses produced
by human activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other
countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over
the next century. And as for the carbon dioxide, the rapid increase in such
emissions observed during the last 250 years is expected to continue for
several decades as well. Various predictions have been made, depending on
factors like fuel use and efficiency. Even the best case scenario predicts
further increases in carbon dioxide emissions until about 2040. Sea level rise,
through the thermal expansion of water and ice melt around the world, is
also predicted to continually threat millions of people.

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse

What can we do?


It is true that science feels very distant from people as if it doesnt have
anything to do with us. We tend to think that it is not our task to get involved
in such scientific issues and wait for them to somehow get resolved by
anyone that is meant to do so. But when the consequences, especially
directly related to our welfare, are right around the corner waiting for us isnt
the time to just wait for something to happen. People are of course more
educated and aware of how our world has changed due to our ignorance. But
what is even more controversial is that even if we want to take part of
bringing the earth back to how it used to be, we still have no idea where to
go for help or how to get in action. As a first step to make a change, public
health and medical professionals must play a crucial role in addressing the
health impacts of climate change. They must be prepared to respond to an
increase in emergencies and to deal with new public health problems that

Sue Chun

Human Health on the Verge of Collapse


could possibly take place due to climate change. To ensure that public health
10

professionals are trained and equipped to address these challenges, we must


set them as our leaders and follow by doing researches, planning and
communicating each other with the public, or even by making a workforce
ourselves to come up with solutions and ways to rise more awareness.

Sue Chun