According to hundreds of thousands of scientists, research bodies, and global indicators, our climate is changing at a rapid rate. It is something that many of us have a hard time seeing in our day-to-day lives. Something that many of us chalk up to a freak event, a strange spring, or just a result of essential development.
However, many of the negative impacts that we see are at least partially the result of climatic changes. Wildfire season may be normal, but the size and scale of the fires are influenced in part by a hotter climate. Likewise, it may be normal to have the occasional wet spring but some of those torrential downpours were fueled by more water evaporating off the ocean.
The land and environmental impacts are not the only tolls of climate change though. The individual health of people is also altered by the climatic conditions we live in. And not all people are subject to the same living conditions, meaning that certain populations are most certainly going to be more negatively impacted by climate change than others.
The list of environmental disparities that certain groups of people are exposed to is a long and tragic one. Unsurprisingly, it is the poorest among us that are the most likely to experience the greatest hardships associated with climatic change. Impoverished countries are the least likely to implement strong regulations that protect important environmental resources. Poor communities are more likely to be situated in areas more prone to floods, landslides, food and water shortages, and excessive resource extraction.
Even in developed countries with the resources to shield most of the populous from the worst a changing climate has to offer, it is the poorest that are likely to experience the most significant impacts. Research has shown that poor neighborhoods have fewer trees and green spaces which can raise ambient temperatures several degrees. Many of these families are less likely to afford air conditioning, which means during heat waves, the risk of death from heat exhaustion is much higher than in more affluent neighborhoods.
Climate and Health Outcomes
Perhaps some of the most disturbing information associated with a changing climate is how it can impact our health outcomes overall. Things such as an increase in destructive wildfires can negatively impact water quality and retention over time. Severe droughts or flooding disrupt agricultural production and limit our ability to produce affordable nutritious food. Air pollution from our vehicles and energy plants causes an increase in respiratory problems such as asthma.
In places such as Hawaii, health disparities have always been a real concern. This is especially true amongst native Hawaiian populations and other minorities, which have higher risks for certain health issues than other ethnic backgrounds. Climate change can exasperate these health outcomes. Much in the same way it is always lurking in the background of every natural disaster today, it is also lurking in the background of many health disasters too.
To combat this, many experts believe we have to change our lifestyles. This, of course, means many things on many scales. On a grand scale, it means advocating for environmentally sound practices that reduce overall negative environmental impacts on the planet. It also means making small changes in our daily lives such as investing in more energy-efficient homes, eliminating single-use plastics, and starting our own gardens. Finally, it also means taking our health more seriously and incorporating preventative care strategies into our daily routines.
Climate change may not be the direct cause of any one thing, but it is a key player in many of the negative environmental events that are happening across the planet. Unfortunately, poor communities are much more likely to bear the brunt of climate change impacts, both in their environments and in their health outcomes. Change takes a lot of time and effort, but it is something we all must strive for now while we can still make a positive difference in the outcome.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. When he isn’t writing you can find him travelling, hiking, or gaming. You can keep up with his writing on his Twitter.
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