Pollution is on the rise across the globe. The worldwide increase in pollution presents many new public health challenges. Lack of fresh oxygen leaves people of all ages and health profiles prone to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, COPD and bronchitis. Patients in areas with especially high pollution levels face more severe, prolonged disease and are more prone to relapse. Air pollution keeps people inside, and promotes inactivity. People who live in areas with a great deal of air pollution tend to be more markedly more sedentary. As a result, patients in polluted areas suffer from higher rates of cardiovascular and diabetes. A recent report by the World Health Organization states that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities have accelerated a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect causes Earth’s temperature to steadily become warmer due to larger volumes of heat reflecting radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere. A warming planet presents numerous serious dangers to public health. Heat waves induce heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heat stroke, especially among older individuals. Rapidly warming ecosystems are hospitable to disease carrying animals and insects, such as mosquitoes that carry malaria, Zika, and West Nile virus. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes cause injury, drowning, and displacement of those impacted. Droughts cause food and water shortages which may lead to malnutrition, and—in extreme cases—starvation. Melting ice sheets and unbalanced ecosystems are predicted to unleash vicious new pathogens which can infect human beings and cause widespread illness and death.
One of the most devastating impacts of climate change is a marked rise in sea levels, which will only become more pronounced in the decades to come. As sea levels rise around the globe, a process known as soil salinization takes place. As salty sea water inundates new tracts of land, it deposits salt which leeches nutrients and causes the soil to become infertile. As ecosystems become upended farther and farther inland, there will be food shortages, mass extinction, and a mass migration of addled displaced people. Rising sea levels are projected to cause injury, malnutrition, starvation, and death.
People around the world are suffering from the negative health impacts of climate change. Countries with strained and inadequate healthcare resources struggle to cope. Wealthy countries with ample resources and all of the latest technology are pushed to the limit by a seemingly endless barrage of climate change driven disasters such a floods, powerful hurricanes and expansive fires. Climate change has proven to be the great equalizer that will ultimately impact the health and well being of every human on Earth. There is a strong consensus among doctors and scientists who study the impacts of climate change that a rapidly warming planet is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. The impacts of widespread air pollution, the greenhouse effect, and rising sea levels will only become more invasive and detrimental as the decades pass.