How climate change affects your health 12



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There’s a Chinese curse that says “may you live in interesting times” and when it comes to our natural environment, these days sure are intriguing. As our climate changes at breakneck speed, we’re experiencing more floods, droughts and other “extreme weather events” than any time in human history, and it’s us 60-somethings, along with the very young and the infirm, who will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change as we age.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest report said, “Older people are at greater risk from storms, floods, heatwaves and other extreme events, in part because they tend to be less mobile than younger adults and so find it more difficult to avoid hazardous situations, and also because they are more likely to live alone. Older people are also more likely to suffer from health conditions that limit the body’s ability to respond to stressors such as heat and air pollution”/

The most pressing health concern related to climate change and older people is heatwave, also known as the “silent killer”. The heatwave that led to the Black Saturday fires is attributed to 374 deaths (twice as many as the fires themselves) and saw an increase of 46 per cent of hospital emergency cases across Victoria. In 2003, the heatwave that engulfed Europe caused an estimated 148,000 deaths in France, the majority (70 per cent) being people over 75.

Already the incidence of unusually high-heat days in Australia has doubled over the past 50 years, and predictions are heatwaves will occur twice as often, last for longer and reach higher temperatures by 2030.

heatwave predictions

Direct effects of heatwave include heatstroke and exhaustion, falls and other accidents caused by dehydration, respiratory illnesses related to air pollution, gastroenteritis and the exacerbation of existing cardiac conditions. A Climate Council report also found the logistical challenges of getting help during heatwaves was a factor for older people living in rural areas.

During heatwaves, transport, roads and other infrastructure can be affected, impacting food and water supplies. Electricity service can also be disrupted leaving people without lights and air-conditioning. All these factors, combined with limited mobility, compound the effects of heatwaves on older Australians.

Another concern is infectious diseases, which will thrive in a hotter climate with more people living closer together. These include mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya; water- and food-borne diseases such as salmonella, giardia and cholera; the flu and whooping cough.

And one issue that must not be overlooked is the impacts of climate change on mental health. Extreme weather events can cause trauma and anxiety, while prolonged experiences such as drought are associated with chronic psychological distress and an increase rate of suicide. The IPCC report also refers to a sense of loss, known as ‘solastalgia’, which people experience when their land is damaged and they lose opportunity.

AMA: preparation and prevention is the cure

A new report by Australia’s top scientists, and endorsed by the Australian Medical Association, has urged the Government to show leadership on climate change to help curtail the risks to health now and in the future.

The reports advises policy makers to:

  • identify those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change;
  • prepare for the forecasted health impacts, starting with reseaech on how climate change will affect vulnerable people, particularly the frail and elderly;
  • communicate the dangers to all people, and give advice on actions that can be taken;
  • reduce emissions urgently.

Were you aware of the health impacts of climate change? Is our government taking it seriously?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. They to hurry and find cheap affordable clean electricity because with the high cost of power many will die in the heat. They doing nothing worthwhile in Australia to combat Global warming

  2. three million years ago so much of Antarctica melted that, according to some studies, all that extra water pushed the oceans about 17 meters higher than they are today. Buy a house on a mountain and you will have a seaside villa in no time at all, this ice is already melting 🙂 ⛄

  3. Being made to worry about climate change is bad for our health. I don’t buy all of the doom and gloom. Carbon makes plants grow and is essential. There is no more carbon in the world now than there ever was.

  4. We used to have cheap electricity, it was supplied by the cleanest, coal fired generators in the world. Then this leftist, fear driven “religion” of global warming came along and successfully destroyed our competitive manufacturing ability and now we all will have to pay more for our power. In the meantime we pay other countries to build their wind turbines and subsidies their costs to boost their inability to provide the power they can’t provide. Just dumb.

  5. You can’t have a modern industrial society without base load power.
    Base Load Power is only possible using Coal, Gas, Nuclear or Hydro.
    Any battery backup system for intermittent power results in a
    Negative Return on Energy Invested.
    First world countries with cheap power have less disease and greater resilience to control those they do have.

  6. The problem is not “climate change” ( Note:-not global warming any more), but the use of non renuable energies. We need to produce more renewable energy if as a country we are going to survive.

  7. Tell me about this climate change, Its quite cold here in Melbourne to day, a little bit warmer (say one or two degrees) in winter would no go astray, for me anyway.

  8. Biggest scam of our lifetimes. Climate has always been changing. so called climate scientists have been paid a fortune to ‘prove’ man made climate change. A load of rubbish.

  9. If you deny man made climate change then why do you believe in God as there is far more hard evidence of the former than the later.

  10. The ones who go on about climate change have obviously not read history books. In history we have had the ice age, severe flooding, heat waves rising seas etc etc. I am not religious but even I have heard of Noah and the ark. Yes we need to take care of our world better, but buying contaminated fruit and vegetables being imported from China etc is not doing Australia any good. How many people dumped the frozen berries in rubbish and some veggies end up there too and then they go to our landfill. I am very concerned about that. Bringing in workers to work on orchards and produce farms from other countries could be carrying diseases on their boots and clothes. Wake up Govt. and stop this happening.

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