Climate Change, Health & Sustainability

Source: PNAS

Climate change poses threats to human health, safety, and survival via weather extremes and climatic impacts on food yields, fresh water, infectious diseases, conflict, and displacement. Paradoxically, these risks to health are neither widely nor fully recognized. Historical experiences of diverse societies experiencing climatic changes, spanning multicentury to single-year duration, provide insights into population health vulnerability—even though most climatic changes were considerably less than those anticipated this century and beyond. Historical experience indicates the following. (i) Long-term climate changes have often destabilized civilizations, typically via food shortages, consequent hunger, disease, and unrest. (ii) Medium-term climatic adversity has frequently caused similar health, social, and sometimes political consequences. (iii) Infectious disease epidemics have often occurred in association with briefer episodes of temperature shifts, food shortages, impoverishment, and social disruption. (iv) Societies have often learnt to cope (despite hardship for some groups) with recurring shorterterm (decadal to multiyear) regional climatic cycles (e.g., El Niño Southern Oscillation)—except when extreme phases occur. (v) The drought–famine–starvation nexus has been the main, recurring, serious threat to health. Warming this century is not only likely to greatly exceed the Holocene’s natural multidecadal temperature fluctuations but to occur faster. Along with greater climatic variability, models project an increased geographic range and severity of droughts. Modern societies, although larger, better resourced, and more interconnected than past societies, are less flexible, more
infrastructure-dependent, densely populated, and hence are vulnerable. Adverse historical climate-related health experiences underscore the case for abating human-induced climate change.

Additional Sources:
  1. The truth of what happened at Copenhagen by Fidel Castro Ruz
  2. Centre for sustainable healthcare, creating a curriculum in Medical schools which combines climate change and sustainability
  3. The health effects of climate change: What does a nurse need to know?  (Stefi Barna was a former staff at Brockwood Park School)
  4. Sustainability Science
  5. MIT Centre for Global Change Science
  6. Royal Society: climate change resources
  7. Met Office: climate change resources
  8. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  9. UK Climate Impacts Programme
  10. WHO: climate change resources
  11. NASA’s Global Climate Change Site
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