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Climate Change and Public Health

Published on Mar 17, 2023   -  4 min read


Increasing climate variability has a significant impact on the health and well-being of individuals. Read this article to know more.


The global climate has been relatively stable for a long period. However, technological advances and urbanization have resulted in a dramatic alteration in the environment. Few natural and man-made activities have resulted in a rise in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses. These events have subsequently increased the mean global temperature and rise in sea levels. It is predicted that by the year 2100, the mean temperature will rise by 1.8 ℃ to 4 ℃. Global warmings, ozone depletion, and the greenhouse effect are significant public health challenges that need immediate attention.

There is sufficient scientific evidence to acknowledge a change in the climate globally. Melting ice and glaciers, rising sea levels, and increasing surface temperatures are a few examples to prove that the climate is changing considerably. These climatic changes are known to have a considerable impact on human health. Human health is closely linked to the environment they dwell in. Weather change and human health go hand-in-hand. For example, excess heat is known to cause hyperthermia; cold can cause hypothermia; vector-borne diseases, food-borne diseases, and tropical diseases are all attributed to weather change. Since most of the climatic changes are caused by man-made activities, a robust intervention is necessary to prevent catastrophic consequences.

What Is the Reason for the Changing Climate?

Subtle climate changes have been existing ever since the earth evolved. Natural factors such as volcanic eruptions have contributed to minimalistic changes. However, the industrial revolution and the development of the domestic economy have exacerbated the situation. Various factors that are responsible for climate change are:

These events result in the production of greenhouse gasses that trap the heat in the atmosphere resulting in global warming. Extremes of global warming have resulted in a drastic increase in air and sea temperatures, forest fires, melting of ice, deranged rainfall, severe storms, flooding, and many such calamities.

What Are the Health Effects of Changing Climate?

Climate change is not just an environmental issue but also a major public health concern. According to WHO, it is the biggest threat of the 21st century. Extremes of climate affect the air, water, soil, and food, thus affecting the health and well-being of the community. Principal health concerns concerning changing climate include adverse effects from a rise in atmospheric temperature (heat wave), allergic reactions, vector-induced diseases due to adverse climate, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases due to worsening air pollution, and contaminated food and water sources. The adverse health effect due to climate change are explained in detail below:

1. Extreme Heat:

  • Associated Health Effect: Heat stroke, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, respiratory diseases.
  • Affected Population: Elderly, athletes, socially isolated, low-income group, with pre-existing disease.
  • Adaptation Measures: Air conditioning, early warning, better forecasting.

2. Extreme Rain, Rise in Sea-Level, Floods:

  • Associated Health Effect: Drowning, slip and fall injuries, water-borne diseases, motor vehicle accidents, vector-borne diseases.
  • Affected Population: Elderly, drivers, low socioeconomic group.
  • Adaptation Measures: Public health education, sea walls, mass transit, vector control, prophylactic vaccination.

3. Air Pollution/ Increasing Ground Level Ozone:

  • Associated Health Effect: Respiratory disease such as asthma, COPD, allergic bronchitis and rhinitis, impaired lung.
  • Affected Population: Children, elderly, immunocompromised, those with pre existing diseases.
  • Adaptation Measures: Pollution control, air quality check periodically, public education, medical therapy.

4. Drought:

  • Associated Health Effect: Malnutrition due to food and water shortage.
  • Affected Population: Affects multiple populations.
  • Adaptation Measures: Public education, water treatment and medical management.

5. Wildfire:

  • Associated Health Effect: Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Affected Population: Affects people who have been exposed to smoke.
  • Adaptation Measures: Awareness, prevention and protection.

6. General Climate Change:

  • Associated Health Effect: Affect mental health and cause other stress related disorders (dementia, schizophrenia, anxiety, and despair).
  • Affected Population: People of all age groups.

Who Is at Risk for a Climate-Related Health Change?

Few individuals are at more risk for climate-related health changes. They are:

  • Children and infants as they are more sensitive to the minutest change in the environment. They are more susceptible to extremes of temperature and dehydration. Also, since their immune system is not fully developed, they have an increased risk of infection or contracting other illnesses.

  • Pregnant women and the elderly are at increased risk for heat stroke due to increased physiological demands.

  • Individuals with preexisting respiratory conditions have an increased risk of air pollution.

  • People living in rural areas are at increased risk from events such as wildfires, droughts, floods, or storms.

How to Stay Healthy in a Changing Climate?

Certain coping measures with temperature extremes and changing weather can prevent potential illness. They are described in detail below:

Extreme Heat:

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Avoid sitting in the car outside for too long.

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables to keep yourself hydrated.

  • Air conditioning.

  • Regular cool showers or baths can help cool down.

  • Limit outdoor activities.

  • Wear climate-appropriate clothes.

Vector-Borne Diseases:

  • Use of insect repellent.

  • Wear loose-fitting light-colored clothes when outside.

  • Limit outdoor activity, particularly after sunset.

  • Avoid marshy areas.

  • Remove stagnant water.

  • Mosquito nets and screens at home can be more effective.

Air Pollution:

  • Avoid burning fossil fuels.

  • Use unleaded petroleum products.

  • Use public transportation or walk or ride a bike.

  • Ensure to maintain the vehicles properly

  • Opt for zero-emission vehicles.

  • Use fluorescent lights instead of energy-consuming incandescent lights.

  • Use products that can be recycled.

  • Encourage planting more trees.


Climate change is a significant public health challenge affecting the community in myriad ways. Since human activities are primarily responsible for this drastic change, certain stringent regulations and increasing public awareness can minimize the damage. Implementing ways to limit greenhouse gas production, eating a healthy and balanced diet, avoiding junk food, and reducing the risk of systemic illness are some ways to prevent and control the health hazards associated with climate change.


Last reviewed at:
17 Mar 2023  -  4 min read




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