3 Ways Climate Change Damages Our Health (and 4 Things You Can Do About It)
Climate change clearly isn't good for the planet's well-being, but did you know it's bad for yours, too? Two recent reports in the medical journal The Lancet show how drastic fluctuations in temperature and weather patterns can damage our health. What every earth dweller should watch out for:
Rising temps allow certain insects—and the diseases they spread—to thrive and multiply. Case in point: Black-legged ticks, notorious for transmitting the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, are now present in almost half of U.S. counties, up nearly 45 percent since 1998. The next influx could be mosquitoes that can transmit dengue, Zika or yellow fever.
Protect yourself: Wear insect repellent with DEET when hiking; check for and remove ticks within two hours of being outdoors.
Fine air particles, noxious gases, and ozone produced by the burning of fossil fuels can trigger asthma attacks and increase inflammation in the body, which over time can lead to life-threatening respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Global pollution of the air, water, and soil was responsible for an estimated nine million premature deaths in 2015—three times more than deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
Protect yourself: Avoid exercising near roads clogged with exhaust-spewing vehicles.
Not only do unusually warm temps lead to conditions like dehydration, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion, but they can also exacerbate conditions such as heart disease.
Protect yourself: When heat and humidity rise, stay hydrated—even if you don't feel thirsty. Use air conditioners when you need them, but turn them off when you don't: They account for about 6 percent of U.S. residential energy use and release around 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, compounding the problem.
Your Planet Protection Plan
Four little things you can do to chip away at climate change:
- Use certified green energy to power your home.
- Drive electric or hybrid. Compared with all-gas cars, these could reduce CO2 emissions per car by 45 percent or more annually.
- Buy carbon-footprint offsets, which help compensate for the release of CO2 by funding projects like planting trees.
- Pressure your reps. Ask local officials how they're fighting climate change, and support candidates who recognize that it's not just the planet but our health that's at stake.