Climate Change effects on health

“Have you ever thought about the relation between health and climate change?”.

This question was made to people who passed by COP20, the UN Conference on Climate Change, during the hot afternoon of this Tuesday (December 2nd) in Lima (Peru).

Trying to call COP20 participants’ attention, Maria exemplifies different problems on health that would be generated by climate changes. “Let’s say that we have a girl from Eastern Mediterranean, where climate is currently hot. A bigger number of people would die there from heat strokes.

In Germany, people would die by floating”. Its responsible was the young medicine student Maria Cisneros Cáceres, 21. Maria is a regional coordinator of the International Federation of Medicine Students’ Associations (IFMSA) in her country (Ecuador).

IFMSA acts in 116 countries aiming to create global leaders in health through activities in public health, human rights, reproductive and sexual health and professional and research exchange programs.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points that extreme events related to climate are more likely to happen if the earth’s average temperature keeps enhancing.

We may consider heat strokes, coastal flooding by sea level rise and urban flooding due to high levels of rain and low water absorbing by the soil. Other item mentioned by IPCC is related to food security, or else, keeping quantity and quality of food industry production. A lack of security in food and water offer would have direct impacts on health.

This scenario comprehends since the most obvious impacts, such as lack of drinking water, which would take the poorer populations to drink contaminated water and obtain deseases, to the less imaginable ones, such as the enhance of sea water temperature, that would make some fish populations migrate to other regions and provoke food scarcity, specially to fishing comunities.

“These are things about which we don’t think about, but we know they’re there. We only need to connect these factors to realize these changes have a cause”, explains Maria Cisneros.

Adapting to climate changes Cities and governments may adopt adaptation actions to prevent these factors.
The student Malcolm Araos, from McGill University in Canada, points some prevention activities found in his Master research: “New York city, for example, plans these actions for a long time and searches for more quick responses in its emergency systems (such as fireman and hospital department) and created more green spaces.

Meanwhile, cities like Cape Town, in South Africa look for preventing flooding and air pollution”. The main obstacle pointed by Malcolm for implementing these initiatives is related to financial and planning issues. “Usually, cities don’t look for adaptation because its institutions don’t have capacity to engage in this kind of initiative.

These policies cost a lot to be created”, explains. IPCC clearly points that, for promoting effective adaptation actions, it is necessary to involve different society sectors (private sector, civil society and government).

This may happen through public policies and incentives alignment, dialogue with more vulnerable local communities and multi-level risk governance.

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