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The ‘Climate Change’ Condition

The ‘Climate Change’ Condition
December 6, 2021 Hannah McNaul

A woman in the British Colombia province, Canada found herself suffering from breathing issues as a consequence of the heatwaves and poor air quality.[1]. Since the onset of her symptoms, she has been the first person diagnosed with ‘climate change’ as the medical condition behind her recent deterioration in health.

Canadian Heatwave

In June of this year, British Columbia suffered the deadliest weather event in Canadian history; temperatures sky-rocketed to near 50 degrees Celsius and resulted in over 800 deaths. [2]. The drastic change in temperature comes as a consequence of the effects of climate change and Dr. Kyle Merritt attributed this, along with the decline in air quality, as the reason for the 70-year old Canadian woman’s breathing difficulties. Sceptics note that the woman was already suffering from diabetes and heart failure, and resided in poor living conditions. They believe these factors to be significant in her health decline.

Following the rise in temperature, wildfires quickly spread across the province with thick smoke in the aftermath. Air quality levels were found to be 43 times worse than what is acceptable, consequently leaving many residents with health issues. 

The World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have already reported the global seen decline in health due to climate change, particularly in under-developed countries where resulting extreme weather events have a significant impact on food and water supplies, as well living conditions.[3]. The WHO estimates that over 150,000 deaths a year can be attributed to the change in climate from ailments such as malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress, and malnutrition. Furthermore, it has been predicted that between 2030 and 2050, there will be an additional 250,000 deaths per year, more specifically targeting vulnerable and disadvantaged groups such as children, those with underlying health conditions and poorer communities.[4].

climate change conditionFigure 1 Crowd during a protest. [6]

The Future

Following the recent COP26 summit, a research project developed by the Research Subcommittee of the WHO-Civil Society Working Group to Advance Action on Climate and Health is being carried out on the trends and gaps between climate change and health, to provide a global review of research to date. [5]. This project will collate the research to highlight a clear trend between the overall global decline in health alongside the change in the climate. Research to date has shown that the value of health gains from reducing carbon emissions would be approximately double the global cost of implementing carbon mitigation measures.

Since the diagnosis of the 70-year old Canadian, Dr. Merritt has kick-started an initiative called ‘Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health’ with the aim to ‘better protect human health by protecting the plant’. Dr. Merritt’s colleagues have joined him in supporting the cause, in order to draw awareness to the harm facing thousands of individuals as the problem of climate change continually worsens. 

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References

[1] Euronews, ‘Frustrated Doctor Diagnoses Woman with ‘Climate Change’ in World First’, 11th November 2021. [online]. Available: https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/11/10/frustrated-doctor-diagnoses-woman-with-climate-change-in-world-first [Accessed 23/11/2021]

[2] Vancouver City News, ‘June’s heatwave was deadliest weather event in Canadian history’, 17th September 2021. [online]. Available: https://vancouver.citynews.ca/2021/09/17/deadliest-heatwave-bc/ [Accessed 25/11/2021]

[3] WHO, ‘Fast Facts on Climate Change and Health’, 10th August 2021. [online] Available: https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/climate-change/fast-facts-on-climate-and-health.pdf?sfvrsn=157ecd81_5&download=true [Accessed 10/11/2021]

[4] WHO, ‘Climate Change and Health’, 30th October 2021. [online]. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health [Accessed 21/11/2021]

[5] WHO, ‘COP26 Health Programme’, Undated. [online]. Available: https://www.who.int/initiatives/cop26-health-programme [Accessed 23/11/2021]

[6] Image Citation: Marcus Spiske (2019) ‘People walking on the street’ [online]. Available: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-walking-on-street-2990647/ [Accessed 23/11/2021]

 

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