”Save the forests, save the humans,” is a mantra of many a health-conscience environmentalist. There is no doubt that the way we treat our earth has an effect on our health, and our recent article on the ways in which biodiversity may help stave off disease transmission is just another item in the long list of evidence. We are, after all, a product of our environment.
To extend that even further, there is very little denying the effect that climate change is having on our health. A White House report last year outlined the ways in which increasing global temperatures (and the subsequent climate disruption) will impact our health. The outlook was—and still is—pretty grim.
Is climate change killing us? By following this line of inquiry, journalist Sabrina Tavernese of the New York Times, figured out that this might not be the right question to ask.
Tavernese explores some of the outcomes that the White House reported would result from extreme weather and increased temperatures: two of which are heat-related deaths and increased range for insect-spread diseases. While the logic of these claims is seemingly infallible—the warmer it is the higher the risk for heat-related illness and the easier it is for insects to live in northern latitudes—finding scientific proof is tenuous.
Though it is scientifically difficult to zero in on the exact effects that climate change is having on us, most scientists seem to agree that it will play as a big factor in the future of our health. The study, though is just in its infancy.
Our health outcomes are affected by a complex nexus of environmental, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and many other factors. Trying to pinpoint exactly how the whole of climate change steps into the mix and to quantify the effect that it has on our death-rates may be the wrong way to go about addressing the health outcomes of climate change. it seems more helpful to ask “what can we do to prevent climate change from killing us?” Last year’s White House Report summed it up nicely. It will take concerted efforts from everyone to bring things back into balance:
While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not irrevocably polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment."
Image via Flickr
Unraveling the Relationship Between Climate Change and Health via New York Times
The Health Impacts of Climate Change on Americans via The White House