The Health Challenges (and Opportunities) of Climate Change
This past week, the news was full of stories about Buffalo’s massive snowstorm, which meteorologists link to climate change. But severe weather isn’t the only effect we’re feeling. Health impacts have also been reported – and health leaders are speaking out to help raise awareness of this issue. In this Wired article, Howard Frumkin, Dean and Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, explains why he believes climate change is “the biggest health challenge in the coming century.”
Our own research bears this out. Along with the direct physical and mental trauma caused by events like storms and floods, we’ve found a variety of more gradual climate impacts, from respiratory ailments to anxiety and depression. Yet, though these effects are already happening, most Americans don’t understand the link between climate and health.
It is a big challenge, but as Dr. Frumkin says, it’s also a big opportunity. The steps we take to tackle climate change will benefit public health in general. Greener cities, for example, will reduce stress and respiratory problems as well as emissions.
Dr. Frumkin is on the Leadership Council of our Climate for Health initiative. To join us or learn more, visit momentus.org.
Jeffrey Marlow, Contributor to Wired
The dangers of a warming climate are frequently presented through an economic or an existential lens, either as a financial gamble whose costs may ultimately outweigh the short-term benefits, or a foreboding reflection of our unwise proclivity toward planetary engineering. But to Howard Frumkin, Dean and Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, it’s a lot more concrete than all that: Climate change, he believes, is “the biggest health challenge in the coming century.”
In addition to anticipated death tolls from more frequent and more intense severe weather events, many chronic issues are coming to the fore. Air pollutants – most notably lung-busting ozone and particulates – increase with heightened temperatures. Ozone forms from nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons through atmospheric chemical reactions that speed up with heat, while particulates nucleate around liquid droplets and can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Both pollutants can cause problematic respiratory responses.
Image credit: Senor Codo/Flickr