The Impacts on Human Health of Global Climate Change

Over recent years, global climate change has become increasingly accepted within the scientific community leading to an increase in the amount of research that has been carried out on the subject. One area of particular interest has been the direct and indirect impacts on human health that global climate change could cause, and what this would mean for our future.

Due to our ever-growing population, and how reliant we are upon the oceans, coastal communities are increasing in size. Coastal areas can provide a source of livelihood for communities through fisheries, provide drinking water through the introduction of desalination plants, and also be used for recreational activities. This leads to growing numbers of vulnerable populations at risk from rising sea-level, ocean acidification and other effects of climate change.

One effect of global climate change which has already caused problems in many parts of the world is the increase in incidence and intensity of extreme weather events. News channels often show terrifying eye witness videos of these events and the devastation that is apparent in the immediate aftermath, but there are also many long term health problems that accompany these tragedies. For example, the mental illness, starvation and malnutrition that follows incidents such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, are not as well documented.

Devastation following the Indian Ocean tsunami 2004

Devastation following the Indian Ocean tsunami 2004

It’s obvious that sea-level rise due to global climate change will cause problems for coastal populations through the destruction of coastal infrastructure such as ports and housing, but there are also health hazards associated with this. It will impact on local fisheries due to the destruction of habitats which could have a nutritional impact on coastal communities. Freshwater supplies could also be affected as they may become contaminated with salt water making them unusable unless treated at desalination plants. A rise in sea-level could also cause flooding of land-fill and agricultural sites, releasing human pathogens and toxic waste.

Not only will the sea-level rise but the temperature of the water will increase. This could also cause problems for fisheries as the distribution of fish stocks is altered. Harmful Algal Blooms would become more frequent, which will lead to an increase in illness in humans exposed to contaminated seafood or water.

Further research is needed into the impacts of climate change on human health so that more accurate predictions can be made. However, the future of our climate is not set in stone and very much depends upon our actions in the coming years.

Original Article: Linking Oceans and Human Health: A Strategic Research Priority for Europe. www.marineboard.eu.

Picture reference: http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2004-asian-tsunami-570×415.jpg

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Jessica Hanney

I am a Marine Biology graduate currently working as a Science Technician at a College. I am also studying for a Masters degree in Earth Science with the Open University. I am very enthusiastic about all aspects of science, but am particularly interested in the marine environment and the effects that we have on it.
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