Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

A warming world is unhealthy for everyone

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
A warming world is unhealthy for everyone
06 Oct
2018
Marco Magrini finds that a warming world also means a more unhealthy one, not just for the planet itself, but for those of us living on it

What’s bad for the planet is usually bad for human health. In other words, the current warming trends don’t spell good news for the well-being of our species... or for many others. 

There are exceptions. Insects will thrive as the warmer temperatures increase their metabolic and reproductive rates, as well as their appetite. Not only will this encourage the spread of Zika, West Nile and Chikungunya viruses carried by mosquitoes, but also tick-borne Lyme disease which is already on the rise. According to a paper recently published in Science, insects in the future are expected to devour a much higher percentage of crops than they do at present - around five to 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, a team of Harvard scientists has calculated that, under the CO2 concentration expected by mid-century, crops will carry less zinc, iron and proteins, casting the shadows of massive nutrient and micronutrient deficiencies, at least in poorer countries.

Richer countries, long thought to be more resilient to climate change, have discovered this summer that they are not. In Japan, a heatwave killed dozens of people and hospitalised 22,000. Forests were burning in Sweden and an African record temperature was registered in Algeria at 51.3oC. In Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, the air was unbreathable for days as the three cities, which usually benefit from the pristine forests that surround them, were engulfed in smoke from British Columbia wildfires. 

Air quality was even worse in Mumbai, Jakarta and Beijing, where coal combustion dims the light, clogs the lungs and further warms the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization, humans’ dependency on fossil fuels leads to seven million people dying prematurely every year because of high pollution levels.

A new study, published in Nature Climate Changein August, found that there is a strong correlation between higher temperatures and mental instability, even inducing higher suicide rates. In a warmer world, even the human nervous system will perform worse.

‘The world is facing a true planetary health emergency,’ warns The Lancet’s most recent editorial. In other words, what’s bad for the planet, is bad for human health.

This was published in the October 2018 edition of Geographical magazine

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

The winners of the most hotly anticipated photography competition have…

Polar

Artist and geographer Nick Jones was appointed artist in residence…

Oceans

Photojournalist Tommy Trenchard joins a research expedition to the Saya…

Climate

So far, carbon offsets have focused mostly on tree-planting. But…

Oceans

Marine scientists are often too few and too underfunded to…

Wildlife

Indigenous marmosets are under threat from released pets and forest fragmentation

Wildlife

A rare encounter with a leopard in the mountains of…

Oceans

The Saildrone Surveyor, a type of uncrewed autonomous vehicle, has…

Climate

Australia has the highest per-capita use of rooftop solar power…

Wildlife

Ecoacoustics – a way to listen in closely to the…

Wildlife

Ash dieback is set to transform the British landscape. Robert…

Geophoto

Photographer Patrick Wack documents documents changes in the Chinese province 

Climate

A growing tide of legal action is increasing pressure on…

Wildlife

Classifying a group of organisms as a separate species has…

Geophoto

Artist Sarah Gillespie used the historic mezzotint technique for her…

Geophoto

The winners of the 2021 competition of Earth Photo have…

Climate

As climate change dysregulates weather patterns, cases of pest explosions…

Polar

Arctic nations are gearing up to exploit the region’s abundant natural…

Climate

Combining solar farms with biodiversity-boosting plants could result in a…