Who Is Most At Risk from Climate Change?
Are You At Risk?
In our previous two articles on the state of the ozone, we talked about prevalent chemicals in our environment as well as the impact that outdoor pollution can have on your lung health. In this article we examine the risks that climate change poses to the health of both humans and the environment.
What does Climate Change Mean to you?
Everyone has heard the words “climate change”. While people may disagree as to how serious of an issue it may be, or how fast it may be occurring, for the most part, people have a general understanding of what it means. Climate change means that regional weather patterns, temperatures, and moisture levels are changing from what is typically understood to be normal for the region.
While humans are incredibly adept at surviving in a wide range of climates and habitats, most plants and animals are not. This means that seemingly small changes in temperatures or rainfall levels can have a significant effect on the plant and animal life in an area. Animals don’t have clothes they can put on or take off to quickly adapt to their surroundings. If you had no clothes, you might not be able to survive long during the winter in the Rocky Mountains. If you were wearing a heavy parka and snow pants, you might. But what if you were wearing those in the desert and weren’t allowed to take them off? You’d probably succumb to the heat in a manner of hours.
In this same way, plants and animals that have adapted to specific temperatures and environments are unable to adapt fast enough to environmental changes. The results can be devastating, resulting in the entire extinction of a species.
What places are most at risk?
While everyone is at risk from climate change, some places and environments are more susceptible than others. For most people living in the US, the effects of climate change tend to go by mostly unnoticed.
Climate change often has serious negative effects on both food crops, as well as animal life. Given the large size of the the US and it’s first world status in every type of resource production, local heat waves or temperature changes do not tend to cause massive disruption to the food supplies in the local grocery stores.
However, for those living in communities that rely heavily on the local plant and animal resources for their livelihood, a temperature change that wipes that resource out can be devastating. This is especially true in 2nd and 3rd world countries where large populations rely on a few specific resources for their livelihood. These countries include many in South America, most countries in Africa, and also many in Asia.
For example, those in fishing communities can see the impact year to year that an unusual weather event has on the amount of fish they can catch. Those in rural farming communities can suffer intense starvation if rainfall levels decline year after year and a drought occurs.
What people are most at risk?
While people for the most part are extremely adaptable to their surroundings, climate change does put millions of lives at risk. Every year, there is news of a new heat wave or blizzard that does billions in damage and causes the loss of many lives.
The people that tend to be most at risk include those in poor communities, children and the elderly. When heat waves or blizzards strike, those with limited access to water, electricity, or heat suffer the most dramatic consequences. Many people in poor rural environments still do not use air conditioning, or even electricity when it comes to 2nd and 3rd world countries. When the heat gets too intense, dehydration and heat exhaustion are major risk factors.
In addition, as climate trends change, air quality levels do too. Increased heat and dryness or increased moisture can all have negative impacts on particle, allergen, and pollution levels in the environment. For those with lung diseases, or other health problems, a surge in regional pollution levels, due to sudden temperature change, can have serious consequences.
Monitor the environmental changes in your region as well as pay attention to the air quality and pollution levels in your environment.