From heat deaths to worsening allergies, climate change is damaging health


Advocates are calling for more action to tackle the health effects of climate change. In Arizona, health conditions related to rising temperatures are a major concern. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – As a climate change activist and mental health advocate, Saiarchana Darira studies the effects of global warming not only on the environment but on the well-being of people around the world.

The recent Arizona State University graduate and self-proclaimed “environmental (mental) health researcher” works as a youth engagement manager at Return it!a project engaging young people from around the world to help educate adults about the dangers of climate change.

Toddlers, teens and young adults from Canada to India have designed flashcards – with illustrations on one side and short essays or comments on the effects of climate change on the other – to inspire people to “think, see and act in new ways”.

“Climate injustice is a very complex and pervasive issue, and how it affects mental health is being ignored,” Darira said, citing Arizona’s often record-breaking and soaring temperatures as an example.

“The inability to go outside due to the heat, increased feelings of isolation, ecological grief – all of these play a role in mental health.”

Return it! uses young people to design flashcards on climate change. This card, made by two Indian teenagers, encourages people to “think about sustainability through the prism of environmental health”. (Photo courtesy of Turn It Around!)

At an annual meeting of its delegates in June, the American Medical Association declared climate change a public health crisis and said he would push for more policies to help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – the cap included in the Paris climate accord.

The organization highlighted the health risks associated with producing hydrogen derived from fossil fuels and said it would develop plans to help doctors adopt environmentally sustainable programs in their practices.

“Our patients are already facing adverse health effects associated with climate change – from heat-related injuries, vector-borne illnesses and air pollution from wildfires to worsening seasonal allergies. and storm-related illnesses and injuries,” said WADA board member Ilse Levin. statement.

“Acting now will not reverse all the damage done, but it will help prevent further damage to our planet and the health and well-being of our patients.”

From 2030 to 2050, according to the World Health OrganizationAn additional 250,000 deaths are expected each year worldwide due to climate-related health problems, including malnutrition, malaria and heat.

In Arizona, health conditions related to rising temperatures are a major concern.

Even before the official start of summer this year, Phoenix hit a high of 114 degrees. As of July 23, Maricopa County – Arizona’s most populous – had seen 38 confirmed heat-related deaths for the year, more than the 26 recorded over the same period in 2021.

Over the past year, the county recorded 339 heat-related deaths – the highest on record.

(Graph of Maricopa County)

Decades of rising temperatures prompted Phoenix to allocate nearly $3 million for heat preparedness in its 2021-22 budget, launch an Office of Heat Response & Mitigation last fall, and develop a response plan in the heat.

“We’ve certainly seen significant temperature trends here in Arizona, especially nighttime temperatures, due to urbanization and global climate change,” said city manager David Hondula. Office of Heat Response and Mitigation. “These increases, particularly during our summer months, can have adverse public health effects.”

A new shelter in Phoenix can help up to 200 homeless people. “Nearly everyone who comes to our door initially has some level of heat-related illness,” says program director Jennifer Morgan. (Photo by Troy Hill/Cronkite News)

Efforts to address the issue include increasing tree and canopy shade by 25%; continuation of the city’s Cool Pavement program, a project to apply a bituminous coating to combat the urban heat island effect; and a new thermal shelter in Phoenix that can provide relief for up to 200 homeless people.

“Nearly everyone who comes to our doors initially has some level of heat-related illness, whether it’s dehydration, extreme sunburn or signs of heatstroke,” said Jennifer Morgan, program director of the new shelter. “The need for a program like this exists, but the urgency has been created by the heat.”

Heat affects the body in many ways: dehydration, heat stroke, exhaustion and anxiety, while compromising pre-existing heart and lung conditions.

A editorial of the New England Journal of Medicinewritten by leading medical journals around the world, cites a host of other issues: “dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health effects, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality.”

The authors note that vulnerable populations are most at risk: children, the elderly, people of color, the poor, and people with underlying health conditions.

Blacks are 40% to 59% more likely live in high-impact areas – those that experience the most brutal effects of climate change first.

Indigenous communities face a unique struggle with climate change. Living in tribal and rural areas along the coast makes them vulnerable to heat, and many depend on the environment for their food and cultural practices.

Related story

In Arizona, the White Mountain Apache tribe and other tribal communities are facing water shortages, with heat and drought only exacerbating the problem.

“As we look to a warmer future,” Hondula said, “we need to be mindful of our currently limited water resources.”

Concerns about the impact of the climate crisis on health are pushing doctors, nurses, medical students and others become advocates for change.

The Medical Society Climate and Health Consortiumwhich amplifies the voice of doctors in the United States while encouraging climate solutions, developed a three-pronged approach to the question: Stop investing in energy produced by fossil fuels, invest and support renewable energies, and make the transition fair for all.

“Now is the time to ‘think big’ to meet the needs of the moment,” the group said in a 2022 climate and health report. “We can and must raise our voices to influence decisions that will affect health now and for generations to come.”

Last year, Darira’s group presented their flashcard initiative at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, hoping to inspire politicians, policymakers and educators to do more.

“The atmosphere is warming at a very alarming rate and world leaders are not taking urgent enough action,” Darira said.


About Author

Comments are closed.