Environmental effects of climate change on human health

Over the next few decades, unabated climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and storms.

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In 2015, the average surface temperature of the Earth was highest on record, surpassing the previous record in 2014. In 2016, the average surface temperature was 0.95oC warmer than the 20th century average. When it comes to the forecasted climate change, wet regions are predicted to become wetter and the dry regions drier.



There has been a significant increase in climate change-induced wildfires across the western USA, putting lives and livelihoods at risk. In the USA, the area burned by wildfires could double by 2050. In Canada, bigger and more frequent fires in the Boreal forests will release vast stores of carbon into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating global warming. For every degree of warming, the forests need a 15% increase in precipitation to compensate for the increased drying. Instead, the forests are getting less rain. Prolonged heatwaves are also likely to increase the risk of wildfires in southern Europe and Russian boreal forests, as well in the Australian outback. There has been a significant increase in the frequency and size of wildfires in Europe and western Russia since the 1970s. Wildfires pose a direct threat to human life and livelihood, and the traumatic experience of losing one’s home can have long-lasting psychological impacts including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


The latest consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment Report is that sea levels could rise 0.5 metres even with aggressive measures to curtail global warming. A higher sea level would have an enormous impact on the more than 1 billion people living in low-lying coastal regions.



In 2011 alone, the USA was battered by 14 weather disasters that cost the government $55 billion. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is predicted to increase all over the globe and may have already begun to do so according to a study published in Nature Climate Change in 2012. One of the driving factors for the increased frequency and intensity of storms is the rising sea levels.


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