Research shows effects of climate change on mental and physical health

Droughts, wildfires and rising temperatures contribute to the ongoing climate crisis and pose a significant threat to mental and physical wellbeing.

A scientific report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body that evaluates climate change and climate science, says that if immediate action is not taken to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gasses, drastic impacts to the environment are impending.

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Extreme weather conditions cause a myriad of health problems in individuals. Changing temperatures that cause heatwaves and blizzards affect those with insufficient cooling or heating systems and those who work outside.

What previous research shows

A study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health found that over 5 million people around the world die from temperature-related conditions.

“Changes in temperature, rainfall and extreme weather have also increased the frequency and spread of diseases in wildlife, agriculture, and people,” the IPCC reported.

Air pollution, which is caused by energy production and the burning of fossil fuels, increases the temperatures on earth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, air pollution can diminish lung function and causes an increase in premature deaths. Air pollutants also impair the functions of blood vessels and can cause cardiovascular diseases in individuals. While we have gotten used to wearing masks to prevent contracting COVID-19, facemasks such as N95s filter out fine particulate matter from air pollution, reducing the risk of facing health conditions related to air pollution.

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The effects of climate change

Climate change also plays a huge role in the water we drink.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the increasing temperature of water can cause an excess of nutrients and minerals to enrich the water causing algae blooms. This is problematic because algae blooms can produce dangerous toxins that can be fatal or cause extreme sickness. To help prevent this from happening, you can report harmful algae blooms to the Georgia Department of Public Health, and find more information about harmful algal blooms as it pertains to Georgia.

“People living in cities nowadays face higher risks of heat stress, reduced air quality because of wildfire, lack of water, food shortages and other impacts caused by climate change and its effect on supply chains, transport networks and other critical infrastructure,” the report concluded.

“Globally, climate change is increasingly causing injuries, illness, malnutrition, threats to physical and mental health and well-being, and even deaths.”

The report by the IPCC says that global warming needs to be reduced to 1.5 degrees Celsius and to accomplish such a goal, nations must terminate all fossil fuel emissions by 2050.

Exposure to extreme weather events also impacts mental health.

The tragedies that follow climate crises cause anxiety, depression and distress in individuals and are linked to increased rates of suicide, psychiatric hospitalizations and psychiatric diagnoses, according to a review of studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Feeling a sense of control can increase psychological wellbeing, the Open University reported.

What you can do

While the climate crisis feels like an insurmountable problem, there are things you could do to regain a sense of control and help mitigate the climate crisis.

These include: calling your representatives on passing legislation that can reduce emissions, composting, growing your own food, eating organic foods, recycling and minimizing your carbon footprint, among others.

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