Climate Change Health Check 2020 Policy Brief

Apr 04, 2008 - 11:00am

The effects of climate change will not only be harmful to the health of the planet-- they will impact the health of humans as well. 

Climate change dramatically disrupts some of life’s basic essential requirements for health: water, air and food. 

By 2020, it is anticipated that increasing climate change will have greater impacts on the health of humans here in Australia and globally. 

In 2020, it is likely that Australian doctors and other health professionals will be seeing patients with a diverse range of climate change-related illnesses, from heat stress and other heat-related illness events (affecting the heart, blood vessels and lungs) to trauma from extreme weather events such as storms and heavy rains.   

It is anticipated that there will be changes in airborne pollutants leading to increased respiratory problems, including asthma. The production of pollens, moulds and fungi, all of which cause allergic symptoms, may increase due to rising temperatures. 

In those areas affected by long-term drought and other natural disasters, it is likely that patients will experience distress and more mental illness such as depression and post traumatic stress disorders.  These conditions are also expected to rise in patients who have survived severe weather events. 

Diseases such as gastroenteritis and diarrhea are predicted to rise due to contaminated food and water.  One study showed that for every degree of increase in temperature the rate of hospitalisation of children with diarrhoea increased by 8 per cent. A changing climate will also affect the distribution of mosquito-related diseases such as Dengue fever and Ross River virus.  Previously, in Australia these diseases had been restricted to areas north of Broome, Katherine and Cairns, but could spread as far south as New South Wales depending on temperature rise. 

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