The effects of climate change are often discussed, but usually in terms of the health of our planet, rather than our own health. As a hot topic in the news lately, the effects of climate change on our health is up for discussion at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. The conference began on 30th November and runs until 11th December. Whilst it is hoped that the subject will lead to some agreements on a global scale, tackling climate change is also something which needs to start with the individual, changing our habits to ensure a brighter future.
The current effects of climate change and health
If you think that the effects of climate change on our health are years away, think again. In the period 2000-2010, the average global temperature rose by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency, has led to increasing problems such as prolonged heatwaves, rainstorms and other phenomenon. Whilst the thought of a heatwave may seem appealing to some, heatwaves can cause a number of problems such as hydration, or more worryingly, raise the pollen count which can affect those suffering from respiratory conditions.
With increased rainfall comes flooding, like those recently experienced in parts of Cumbria, which can have a number of devastating effects on communities. It can be difficult for emergency health services to get through to those in need, and diseases can spread much quicker.
Concerns about the future
Public Health England have been researching the effects of global warming on health and found that the potential impact for older people is great, citing the 2003 heatwave that had spread across Europe as an example. Warmer temperatures can also worsen the impact of pollution, which is already a growing concern for health in the UK.
The stress of dealing with flooding could also lead to an increase in mental health related issues, with symptoms being two to five times more common in those whose homes have been affected by flooding.
As temperatures get warmer, the kinds of wildlife we can expect to see in the UK will also change, especially mosquitos, which are known to transfer diseases. Diseases which are common in warmer climates have already been making their way to Europe, meaning it could be a matter of time before they emerge in the UK.
Whilst these risks are being monitored carefully by researchers, there are other concerns to consider such as the increase in skin cancer cases.
How you can help to fight climate change
Many people ignore climate change because they can’t see how it affects them, but knowing that climate change could affect your health, is it time that you did your bit? There are many steps which you can take to help secure the future of our planet, and our health, including:
Eating more seasonable fruit and vegetables, and try going meat free
Buying seasonal foods means its far more likely they have been sourced locally, incurring less of a carbon footprint. Eating less meat can also help to reduce the carbon emissions caused by livestock farming (around 18%), as well as being better for your heart health.
Boil less water
Did you know that 30 million litres of water in the UK are boiled, only to go cold again? This is quite startling and shows how much energy we waste each day. Instead of repeatedly boiling large quantities of water, only boil what you need and you’ll save more energy in doing so.
Make your laptop more energy efficient
Your laptop or computer could be wasting energy where it is needed, and most computers have options to help you save energy through turning the brightness down, and going to sleep after a period of non-use. When you’ve finished using your computer, turn your laptop on to energy saving mode to reduce wasting energy unnecessarily.
Change the way you commute
If you typically rely on your car to get to work, maybe you should consider some other options. Carpooling or using public transport can help to reduce carbon emissions, whilst walking or cycling use no carbon emissions at all and are better for your health too.
If you’d like to find out about further ways you can help battle climate change, the Environment Agency has plenty of information on how you can get involved. Taking steps to change your habits now could secure our future and that of other generations too.