The growing menace of climate change is increasingly impacting human health, both physically and mentally. Central Europeans, accustomed to ambient temperatures between 20 and 27 degrees Celsius, are experiencing physical and mental strain under new climatic conditions. Mental health phenomena such as 'Eco-Anxiety', a condition that amplifies future fears and depression due to climate change concerns, and Solastalgia, discontent caused by alterations in familiar life surroundings, are being highlighted. Physical diseases like increased skin cancer risk, tropical diseases, and cardiovascular disorders are also on the rise. The prevalence of pollen allergies is growing due to heat-stressed plants and extended blooming periods. Climate-induced health issues such as heat exhaustion and blood pressure fluctuations are challenging the healthcare system, demanding new scientific concepts and enhanced public awareness. The realization that climate protection is synonymous with health and human protection is gaining importance.
Unfolding Climate Crisis
The rate of climate change surged alarmingly between 2011 and 2020, which was the warmest decade on record. As per the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2023 is set to be the record warmest year. The abundance of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record in 2022. The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) warns of six tipping points being pushed by climate change. The planet is far off track from meeting its climate goals halfway through the 2030 Agenda.
Impacts on Health
The impact of global warming on health due to climate change is increasingly studied, but the global burden of self-harm and interpersonal violence attributable to high temperature is still limited. Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika, West Nile virus, and malaria pose a greater risk of spreading due to climate change. The transmission potential for dengue alone will increase by 36 percent with 2C warming. Heat stress is projected to impact hundreds of millions of people as temperatures continue to climb through the next few decades.
Mental Health and Climate Change
Global warming is also worsening mental health through extreme heat, economic instability, natural disasters, ecological grief, and climate anxiety. Worrying about the present and future of our warming planet has also provoked rising anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress. Understanding people’s emotions and stressors during disaster times will enable preparation strategies for mitigating further consequences. The realization that climate protection is synonymous with health and human protection is gaining importance.