A study on climate change indicates just how much it may be affecting global health. In a press release from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers said they found that there are immediate health benefits from adopting low-carbon strategies.
Signs of climate change
The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors released it on Monday ahead of today’s United Nations climate change summit, which is being held in New York.
Researchers reported that the number of hot days in the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S. could triple by the middle of this century. They said climate change causes heat waves and storms to be more extreme than they were in the past.
What climate change may be doing to us
The researchers found that more extreme conditions are associated with higher risks for infectious and waterborne diseases and more chronic health risks due to air pollution. They also said that carbon-intensive diets are contributing to higher malnutrition rates and risks related to obesity.
Other issues the researchers said are being caused by climate change include increased respiratory disorder rates, higher depression and other mental health problems in connection with natural disasters and lower crop yields combined with higher rates of plant disease. And this latest study isn’t the only one suggesting just how seriously global health is being affected by climate change.
“These findings dovetail with recent World Health Organization (WHO) studies that identified major health benefits from low carbon housing, transport and agriculture,” said WHO health policy expert Carlos Dora in a statement. “Many of these benefits come from reductions in air pollution, but low carbon strategies also can increase physical activity, reduce traffic injuries and improve food security.”
How to improve global health
The researchers said climate change “affects our health through multiple pathways” and that “if the risks are so interdependent, so, too, are the opportunities.” They said opportunities that may improve global health include improving air quality by reducing smog or ozone. They noted that there was a close correlation between the number of very hot days and the number of high ozone days in cities like Chicago.
The study also suggested other strategies to cut down on fossil fuel consumption while also improving health. For example, researchers suggest that we could eat less meat, design sustainable cities and promote active transportation through walking or bicycling.