Human-caused climate destruction is making us sick. Global climate change is altering our day-to-day lives and becoming an unprecedented public health threat. And unlike infectious pandemics, climate change doesn’t heed global borders — it ignores HAZMAT suits and quarantines and our most advanced medicines.
The effects are geographically unique, so the health risks that we face in Arizona will be different from what people in Maine are going to struggle against. But climate change affects most aspects of public health and it will affect us all, regardless of where you might live.
Our changing climate deteriorates the air quality, which increases respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It forces people to face more prevalent food-and-waterborne illnesses.
It causes an uptick in extreme weather events that will injure and kill more people than similar storms in previous years. And it increases chances that the public will contract and then spread a life-threatening infectious disease.
But learning and preparing for these ailments can help us cope with the upcoming climate health effects.
So what are we going to be facing?
Most of the Southwestern United States isn’t going to plunge into a smog cloud akin to the levels of Beijing, but our air quality is going to significantly worsen.
Ground level ozone, which is a key component of smog, forms from air pollution spouted by vehicles, industrial factories, livestock and other sources. An increase in temperatures consequently spikes the amount of smog trapped in cities and causes it to form faster.
Those rising temperatures also increase the amount of allergens in the air, such as ragweed, as an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes plants to produce and release more pollen. And then those new plants might burn in the increasing trend of drastic wildfires. The smoke from those fires further degrades the air quality.