The Earth’s climate is always changing, and changes from natural causes are usually gradual. Some human activities, however, are speeding things up. Burning fossil fuels like oil, for example, upsets the balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as they trap heat in the atmosphere. As a result, the global climate is becoming warmer. Over the past 100 years, Earth has warmed by about 1º F. However, right now, the change in the earth's climate is still small.
Scientists believe that with global warming, we can expect more severe weather patterns including heat waves, hurricanes, floods, and drought. The oceans may become more acid. Weather events like these can increase health risks, damage economies, destroy habitats, and affect our quality of life.
Climate change can affect more than just the weather. It can affect crops, farm animals, wild plants and animals, and human health.
Changes in the Earth’s climate have the potential to affect people’s health. For example, people can:
- Be hurt directly by extreme weather events caused by climate change, such as powerful hurricanes.
- Drown in floodwaters or get injured by falling trees and other debris during severe thunderstorms.
- Get heat rashes or heat stroke, and even die from the high temperatures of heat waves.
Climate change can also affect people indirectly, through changes in habitat, and the quality of air, water, and food. A drought can hurt crops and lead to food shortages and malnutrition (not getting enough vitamins and minerals). Global warming can increase the areas where disease-carrying insects can live and reproduce, which may lead to more disease outbreaks in new places. In areas hit very hard, global warming can affect the social structure and economy, too.
NIEHS studies the effects of climate change on human health, and what they learn about climate change, energy, and health will help everyone make good decisions for the future.
Some content courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.