Severe Health Consequences from Climate Change

by Caroline Chmiel

Haynes et al (2014) discuss the impending health risks to humanity if climate change persists at a rapid rate. They argue that if fossil fuel burning remains unconstrained, global average warming in the long term may be 12° C and by 2100 this heat could cause a 40% reduction in global labor capacity. During especially hot months, the temperatures would create hostile environments for laborers in many areas of the country. As population increases, this decrease in productivity would be especially detrimental to maintaining economic levels. Additionally, temperatures of extreme heat may cross the “afterlife” threshold. This occurs when the effect the temperature would have on humanity is so large that there is a “discontinuity in the long-term progression of humanity”. New and extreme health risks are crucial aspects of crossing the “afterlife” threshold.

One example of a human life health risk is preparedness for the effects of a catastrophic flood with short return time. Another could range all the way to saltwater entering freshwater in small islands, so the water quality could force people of the island to have forced migration. These effects stem from rapid climate change and alterations over time. This small island example leads to the specific vulnerability of low-income countries to health issues arising from climate change. These types of countries will be less prepared for helping their citizens overcome changing health dangers. Crucial relationships between low-income and high-income countries must be made. These equitable partnerships will mitigate extreme hardships.

Interestingly, the vulnerability to climate change is often inversely related to historical greenhouse gas emissions. The impoverished areas are affected based more on their group and susceptibility of adaptation than on direct impact on climate change. The authors suggest that the global health community needs to take a long-term look at climate change because of the potentially catastrophic affects on human health.

Haines, Andy, Kristie L. Ebi, Kirk R. Smith, and Alistair Woodward. “Health Risks of Climate Change: Act Now or Pay Later.” The Lancet 384.9948 (2014): 1073-075. Web.


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