From: Geordan Shannon, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published February 11, 2014 08:19 AM

Climate Change and Human Health

Sea—level rises, changes to the severity of monsoon seasons and rainfall, flooding, droughts and heatwaves are all having an increasing impact on human health, writes Geordon Shannon.

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The loss of healthy life years in low-income African countries is predicted to be 500 times that in Europe.

It is beyond doubt that our emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. And climate change is making us sick.

The World Health Organisation estimates that between 1970 and 2004, the environmental effects of climate change caused more than 140,000 deaths each year.

And the direct financial cost of the damage it will have on our health is estimated to come in at around US$2-4 billion in just over 15 years time.

Extreme weather events

We tend to think of large-scale weather events as 'natural' disasters, but the case is increasingly being made for a man-made cause and effect for some of these.

While it is difficult to attribute single events such as Hurricane Katrina to climate change, climatologists have suggested a possible role in contributing to the intensity of these kinds of events. And flooding, droughts, heatwaves, and the spread of disease have all been linked to climate change.

In the UK, adverse weather events already have a palpable public presence. Only last year, a prolonged heat wave claimed around 650 excess deaths in England.

Heat wave risk 'doubled'.

And according to the authors of a report on the disastrous 2003 heatwave that claimed 20,000 lives across Europe, it is "very likely" that human influence has at least doubled the risk of another particularly bad one happening again.

Julia Slingo, the Met Office's chief scientist, said that the evidence suggests climate change is likely to be a factor in the severe weather than has caused torrential rain and flooding in the south of England over the past two months.

Since December there have been 130 severe flood warnings (compared to nine in 2012) which not only poses an immediate physical risk to people, but also threatens to undermine the country's food security.

And such climatic events are occurring with increasing severity and frequency across the globe.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.

Woman in rain image via Shutterstock.

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