The Planet is Dying… And so are We?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of McMaster Energy Week.

As we all know, climate change affects us all in many ways, almost all of which are negative. One of these aspects that not many people think about is the effect it has on our personal health and wellbeing. Everyone talks about how climate change is affecting the planet, so let’s take a look into a different aspect. The health effects outlined in this article are going to focus on droughts, extreme heat levels and deteriorating air quality.

Extreme Heat

Do you ever think to yourself, “wow this summer seems way hotter than the last”? Well, you’re right because it probably is. This is one of the direct effects of climate change: extreme levels of heat. Taking data from the Greater Los Angeles area, experts predict that there will be an average increase of 3.5°C by the end of the century. Experts also analyzed the increase in the number of hot days (>35°C) and found that there will be 11 more of these per year by 2050. A primary example on the terrors of extreme heat was witnessed in May of 2015 when over 2500 people died in India. The way we are living currently, heat waves like the one seen in India could happen in other parts of the world. Additionally, extreme heat levels can severely damage crops which is a primary source of income for farmers. This will cause them to have higher stress levels and cause consumers to have one less source of food. Even though it may not seem obvious, extreme heat can end up lowering mental health levels and causing undernutrition.

Droughts

Droughts are a period of time when a region experiences low precipitation which results in low supplies of surface and groundwater. Some areas that are highly affected by droughts are places like California, India and China. With a projected global temperature increase of approximately 1.7°C by 2030 and 2.5°C by 2050, the chances of a drought occurring in less prone areas will be even higher. Severe drought conditions can negatively affect air quality and increase the risk of wildfires and dust storms. This increases the chances of developing respiratory infections and makes existing respiratory illnesses worse.

Furthermore, a long drought will cause diminished living conditions due to less available energy, food and nutrition. Just as in the case of extreme heat, a drought can ruin crops which are a main source of food for many communities. Having all these things happen at once will increase the chance of mental health issues, especially stress and anxiety.

Air Quality

Finally, one of the easiest ways to see the effects on our health is through the deteriorating air quality. According to the World Health Organization, 7 million people died in 2012 due to polluted air, which is directly caused by climate change. This map shows a shocking visual on just how bad the air quality is in some places of the world like China, India and Korea. It is proven that higher levels of CO2 in the air will cause crops to become less nutritious, which will lead to undernutrition and an increase in food prices (less availability). Furthermore, lower air quality will increase the chances of developing respiratory disease, reproductive system damage, fatigue and anxiety (more health effects shown in the graphic).

With all these problems what is being done in order to reduce the effects on human health? In some places like California, there are many initiatives put in place to reduce GHG emissions and battle climate change. They are promoting the use of renewable energy such as solar power, planting 1 million trees in 2019, and planning for 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030. However, California is only one side of the equation. Some places like China aren’t taking climate change seriously. Back in 2015, the many horrors of air pollution in China were outlined in the documentary “Under the Dome” by Chai Jing, however, it was taken down by the government within 3 weeks of its release. Currently, China is improving as shown by the current initiative on electric vehicle adoption and hopefully they continue to take steps in the right direction.

The mission to improve our world and fight against climate change is going to be long but it’s something that needs to be done. There are so many signs telling us that we need to change, and we should take them seriously. If we don’t, there will be severe implications on our societies, wellbeing and personal health. Our planet is dying, and so too will we if nothing is done about it.

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McMaster Energy Week is Canada’s first student-led energy week that focuses on empowering university students to take control of their energy future.

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McMaster Energy Week

McMaster Energy Week

McMaster Energy Week is Canada’s first student-led energy week that focuses on empowering university students to take control of their energy future.

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