Hot and bothered: our health under climate change

From Ecos Magazine, 10 July 2014:

As citizens living in a developed economy, we have a certain level of control over our health. Most of us have access to medicines, treatments and health services designed to cure our ills, or at least minimise pain. We also have access to information about dietary and lifestyle choices to help ensure we lead healthy, active and productive lives.

But what will happen to our relatively healthy way-of-life under climate change? What good, for example, would a painkiller be in the face of a prolonged heatwave? Or a cholesterol-lowering drug, when the crops we rely on for nourishment are deficient in nutrients? Or an anti-viral drug against dengue fever or Chikungunya virus, if populations of carrier-mosquitoes were to become widespread down the east coast of Australia?

While much of the public discourse about climate change has focused on environmental changes – carbon dioxide concentrations, increasing global average temperatures, melting polar ice, rising sea levels – it seems we’ve overlooked a very important issue: the threat to human health.

That’s the view of Emeritus Professor Tony McMichael from the Australian National University’s (ANU’s) Research School of Population Health.

‘Where we’ve struggled is to have the community and decision-makers understand that the wellbeing, health, and physical survival of human populations is, sooner or later, the bottom line in all the adverse effects of climate change,’ says Prof. McMichael.

While scientists focus on the adverse impacts of climate change on the biology and ecology of the Great Barrier Reef or the mountain pygmy possum, a change in climate will have many similarly adverse impacts on human beings, he argues. Indeed many impacts on human health will result from adverse changes to those ecosystems.

‘That’s a hard concept for many people, to think that we’re in the same bracket as frogs, possums and polar bears. But we’re all dependent on nature’s life-support systems and climate change is going to disrupt that in many ways.’ Read more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s