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Effects of Global Warming on Human Health

The effects of global warming include its effects on human health. The observed and projected increased frequency and severity of climate related impacts will further exacerbate the effects on human health. This article describes some of those effects on individuals and populations.

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## 1. Impact of Excess Heat on the Human Body

The human body requires evaporative cooling to prevent overheating, even with a low activity level. With excessive ambient heat and humidity, adequate evaporative cooling does not take place. Human thermoregulatory capacity is exceeded. A sustained wet-bulb temperature or Wet-bulb globe temperature exceeding about 35 °C (95 °F) can be fatal.[1][2]

Human response to heat stress can be hyperthermia, heat stroke and other harmful effects. Heat illness can relate to many of the organs and systems including: brain, heart, kidneys, liver, etc.[3]

## 2. Impact on Disease

### 2.1. Impact on Infectious Diseases

Warming oceans and a changing climate are resulting in extreme weather patterns which have brought about an increase of infectious diseases—both new and re-emerging.[4] These extreme weather patterns are creating extended rainy seasons in some areas,[5] and extended periods of drought in others,[6] as well as introducing new climates to different regions.[6] These extended seasons are creating climates that are able to sustain vectors for longer periods of time, allowing them to multiply rapidly, and also creating climates that are allowing the introduction and survival of new vectors.

#### Impact of warmer and wetter climates

Mosquito-borne diseases are probably the greatest threat to humans as they include malaria, elephantiasis, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, and dengue fever.[7][8] Studies are showing higher prevalence of these diseases in areas that have experienced extreme flooding and drought.[7][8] Flooding creates more standing water for mosquitoes to breed; as well, shown that these vectors are able to feed more and grow faster in warmer climates. As the climate warms over the oceans and coastal regions, warmer temperatures are also creeping up to higher elevations allowing mosquitoes to survive in areas they had never been able to before. As the climate continues to warm there is a risk that malaria will make a return to the developed world.

Ticks are also thriving in the warmer temperatures allowing them to feed and grow at a faster rate.[9] The black legged tick, a carrier of Lyme disease, when not feeding, spends its time burrowed in soil absorbing moisture.[5][10] Ticks die when the climate either becomes too cold or when the climate becomes too dry, causing the ticks to dry out.[5][10] The natural environmental controls that used to keep the tick populations in check are disappearing, and warmer and wetter climates are allowing the ticks to breed and grow at an alarming rate, resulting in an increase in Lyme disease, both in existing areas and in areas where it has not been seen before.[5][9]

Another impact that the warming global temperature has had is on the frequency and severity of heat waves. In addition to dehydration and heat stroke, these heat waves have also resulted in epidemics of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Recent studies have shown that prolonged heat exposure, physical exertion, and dehydration are sufficient factors to developing CKD.[11] These cases are occurring across the world congruently with heat stress nephropathy.

Other diseases on the rise due to extreme weather include hantavirus,[12] schistosomiasis,[8] onchocerciasis (river blindness), and tuberculosis.[4] It also causes the rise in hay fever, as when the weather gets warmer there is a rise in pollen levels in the air.[13]

Projected increases in temperature would make parts of southwest Asia uninhabitable, when temperature combined with high humidity reaches a wet-bulb temperature of 35 °C, the threshold for a fit human to survive in well-ventilated conditions.[14]

Warmer temperatures may also lead an increase in aggression levels. Research has shows links between higher temperatures and increased aggressive and criminal behaviour. Which can be seen by the rise in the rate of criminality during the warmer summer months.[15]

#### Impact of warmer oceans

The warming oceans are becoming a breeding ground for toxic algae blooms (also known as red tides) and cholera.[16] As the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the oceans increase, the cholera bacteria that lives within zooplankton emerge from their dormant state.[16] The changing winds and changing ocean currents push the zooplankton toward the coastline, carrying the cholera bacteria, which then contaminate drinking water, causing cholera outbreaks.[16] As flooding increases there is also an increase in cholera epidemics as the flood waters that are carrying the bacteria are infiltrating the drinking water supply.[17] El Nino has also been linked with cholera outbreaks because this weather pattern warms the shoreline waters, causing the cholera bacteria to multiply rapidly.[16][17]

#### Malaria

Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that infects humans and other animals caused by microorganisms in the Plasmodium family. It begins with a bite from an infected female mosquito, which introduces the parasite through its saliva and into the infected host's circulatory system. It then travels through the bloodstream into the liver where it can mature and reproduce.[18] The disease causes symptoms that typically include fever, headache, shaking chills, anemia, and in severe cases can progress to coma or death.

'About 3.2 billion people – nearly half of the world's population – are at risk of malaria. In 2015, there were roughly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths.' [19]

Climate is an influential driving force of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Malaria is especially susceptible to the effects of climate change because mosquitoes lack the mechanisms to regulate their internal temperature. This implies that there is a limited range of climatic conditions within which the pathogen (malaria) and vector (a mosquito) can survive, reproduce and infect hosts.[20] Vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, have distinctive characteristics that determine pathogenicity. These include the survival and reproduction rate of the vector, the level of vector activity (i.e. the biting or feeding rate), and the development and reproduction rate of the pathogen within the vector or host.[20] Changes in climate factors substantially affect reproduction, development, distribution and seasonal transmissions of malaria.

Mosquitoes have a small window for preferential conditions for breeding and maturation. The ultimate breeding and maturing temperature for mosquitoes ranges from 16 to 18 degrees Celsius.[21] If the temperature is decreased by 2 degrees, most of the insects will succumb to death. This is why malaria is unsustainable in places with cool winters. If a climate with an average of approximately 16 degrees Celsius experiences an increase of about two degrees, the mature bugs and the larvae flourish. Female mosquitoes will need more food (human/animal blood) to sustain life and to stimulate production of eggs. This increases the chance of spread of malaria due to more human contact and a higher number of the blood sucking insects surviving and living longer. Mosquitoes are also highly sensitive to changes in precipitation and humidity. Increased precipitation can increase mosquito population indirectly by expanding larval habitat and food supply.[22] These prime temperatures are creating large breeding grounds for the insects and places for the larvae to mature. Increased temperature is causing snow to melt and stagnant pools of water to become more common. Bugs that are already carrying the disease are more likely to multiply and infect other mosquitoes causing a dangerous spread of the deadly disease.

Climate change has a direct impact on people's health in places where malaria was originally not prevalent. Mosquitoes are sensitive to temperature changes and the warming of their environment will boost their rates of production.[23] A fluctuation of two or three degrees is creating exceptional breeding grounds for mosquitoes, for larvae to grow and mature mosquitoes carrying the virus to infect people that have never been exposed before. In communities living in the higher altitudes in Africa and South America, people are at now at a higher risk for developing malaria because of increase in the average temperature of the surroundings. This is a severe problem because people in these communities have never been exposed to this disease, causing an increased risk for complications from malaria such as cerebral malaria (a type of malaria that causes mental disability, paralysis and has a high mortality rate) and death by the disease. Residents of these communities are being hit hard by malaria because they are unfamiliar with it; they do not know the signs and symptoms and have little to no immunity.

The population at risk of malaria in the absence of climate change is projected to double between 1990 and 2080 to 8820 million, however; unmitigated climate change would, by the 2080s, further increase the population at risk of malaria by another 257 to 323 million.[24] Therefore, reducing the effects of climate change in the present would reduce the total by about 3.5%, saving tens of thousands of lives worldwide.

If there is a slight discrepancy in the normal temperature, the perfect conditions for the insects to multiply are created. People that have never been infected before are unknowingly at risk for this deadly disease and do not have the immunity to combat it. An increase in temperature has the potential to cause a widespread epidemic of the disease that has the capacity to wipe out entire populations of people. It is important to track the prevalence, species and number of insects carrying the disease as well as the number of humans infected in countries and places that have never seen malaria before. It is simple for the slightest of fluctuation in temperature to cause a catastrophic epidemic that has the possibility to end the lives of many innocent and unsuspecting people.[21]

#### Dengue fever

Dengue fever is an infectious disease caused by dengue viruses known to be in the tropical regions.[25] It is transmitted by the mosquito Aedes, or A. aegypti.[26]

The cases of dengue fever have increased dramatically since the 1970s and it continues to become more prevalent.[25] The greater incidence of this disease is believed to be due to a combination of urbanization, population growth, increased international travel, and global warming.[27] The same trends also led to the spread of different serotypes of the disease to new areas, and to the emergence of dengue hemorrhagic fever. There are four different types of viruses in dengue fever. If someone is infected with one type of dengue virus, he or she will have permanent immunity to that type of dengue virus, but will have short term immunity to the other type of dengue fever.[25] Some of the symptoms of dengue fever are fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and skin rash.[28] There is no vaccine for dengue fever right now and there is no true treatment to get rid of it, but there are treatments to assist with some of the work of dengue, such as the use of oral or intravenous fluids for rehydration.[28]

Dengue fever used to be considered a tropical disease, but climate change is causing dengue fever to spread. Dengue fever is transmitted by certain types of mosquitoes, which have been spreading further and further north. This is because some of the climate changes that are occurring are increased heat, precipitation and humidity which create prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.[29] The hotter and wetter a climate is, the faster the mosquitoes can mature and the faster the disease can develop. Another influence is the changing El Nino effects that are affecting the climate to change in different areas of the world, causing dengue fever to be able to spread.[30]

There are many things that can be done, both on a governmental level and on an individual basis. One improvement would be having a better system of detecting when dengue outbreaks may happen. This can be done by monitoring environments, such as temperatures, rainfall and humidity that would be attractive to these types of mosquitoes and help them to flourish. Another useful plan is to educate the public by letting them know when a dengue outbreak is occurring and what they can do to protect themselves. For example, people should create a living environment that is not attractive to mosquitoes (no standing water), dress in appropriate clothing (light colours, long sleeves), and wear insect repellent.

"Some 1.8 billion (more than 70%) of the population at risk for dengue worldwide live in member states of the WHO South-East Asia Region and Western Pacific Region, which bear nearly 75% of the current global disease burden due to dengue. The Asia Pacific Dengue Strategic Plan for both regions (2008--2015) has been prepared in consultation with member countries and development partners in response to the increasing threat from dengue, which is spreading to new geographical areas and causing high mortality during the early phase of outbreaks. The strategic plan aims to aid countries to reverse the rising trend of dengue by enhancing their preparedness to detect, characterize and contain outbreaks rapidly and to stop the spread to new areas." [31]

#### Tick borne disease

A high humidity of greater than 85% is the best condition for a tick to start and finish its life cycle.[32] Studies have indicated that temperature and vapor play a significant role in determining the range for tick population. More specifically, maximum temperature has been found to play the most influential variable in sustaining tick populations.[33] Higher temperatures augment both hatching and developmental rates while hindering overall survival. Temperature is so important to overall survival that an average monthly minimum temperature of below -7 °C in the winter can prevent an area from maintaining established populations.[33]

The effect of climate on the tick life cycle is one of the more difficult projections to make in relation to climate and vector-borne disease. Unlike other vectors, tick life cycles span multiple seasons as they mature from larva to nymph to adult.[34] Further, infection and spread of diseases such as Lyme disease happens across the multiple stages adding additional variables to consider. Infection of ticks happen in the larval/nymph stage (after the first blood meal) when they are exposed to borrelia burgdorferi (the spirochete responsible for Lyme disease), but transmission to humans doesn’t occur until the adult stages.

The expansion of tick populations are concurrent with global climatic change. Species distribution models of recent years indicate that the deer tick, known as I. scapularis, is pushing its distribution to higher latitudes of the Northeastern United States and Canada, as well as pushing and maintaining populations in the South Central and Northern Midwest regions of the United States.[35] Climate models project further expansion of tick habit north into Canada as progressing Northwest from the Northeastern United States. Additionally, however, tick populations are expected to retreat from the Southeastern coast of the U.S., but this has not yet been observed.[36] It's estimated that coinciding with this expansion, increased average temperatures may double tick populations by 2020 as well as bring an earlier start to the tick exposure season.[35][37]

Tick populations are not only spreading wider, but moving to higher elevations. In Colorado, the Rocky Mountain wood tick known as D. andersoni is found along the front range and is want to feed, and consequently infect, human populations with tularemia (Francisella tularensis), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia rickettsii), and Colorado tick fever (CTF virus). A case study testing climatic interaction affecting tick vector (D. andersoni) populations in Larimer County, Colorado indicated that an estimated increase of 1.2–2.0 °C in summer temperatures would increase tick populations moving 100m upwards in elevation, increasing the range and susceptibility of tick-borne illnesses along the front range.

Initial symptoms of tick-borne infections are generally quite similar to that of other viral illnesses. This includes fever, headache, fatigue, and general malaise. This group of diseases can further be difficult to distinguish early on in the disease process due to these general symptoms in addition to most people (reported around 75%) not realizing they have been bitten or exposed to the tick vector.[38] Unique to early Lyme disease is the development of the classic erythema migrans skin rash, also known as the “bull’s eye” or “target” rash, which occurs in about 80% of people diagnosed with Lyme disease.[39] This symptom can be an important distinguishing factor helping to make the diagnosis early. If Lyme disease is unrecognized, misdiagnosed, or improperly treated it can lead to much more severe and serious consequences with the spread of the spirochete to joints, heart, and nervous system causing arthritis, carditis, cranial nerve palsies or encephalopathy and cognitive dysfunction.[39]

Regardless of the specific diagnosis (Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Babesiosis etc.) the key to management and prevention of sequelae is early identification of disease and initiation of appropriate antibiotic therapy. With regard to the effects of a warming world and the expansion of tick populations to previously unexposed areas, adaptive keys to prevention will include expansion of health care infrastructure and pharmacologic availability, as well as education of people and providers as to the risks of disease and preventative measures they can take.[40]

In the face of these expanding threats, strong collaboration between government officials and environmental scientists is necessary for advancing preventative and reactive response measures. Without acknowledging the climate changes that make environments more habitable for disease carriers, policy and infrastructure will lag behind vector borne disease spread.[41] The human cost associated with denying climate change science is one that concerns many governments. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is conducting a grant program called Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) which details a 5 step process for combating climate effects like tick borne disease spread.[42] As is the case when responding to other vectors and effects of climate change, vulnerable populations including children and the elderly will need to be prioritized by any intervention.[43] Productive policies in the U.S. and the world need to accurately model changes in vector populations as well as the burden of disease, educate the public on ways to mitigate infection, and prepare health systems for the increasing disease load.[44]

### 2.2. Impact on Mental Health

While the physical health impacts of climate change are well known, the impact on mental health has only begun to be recognized in the last decade.[45] According to 2011 in American Psychologist Clayton & Doherty, concluded that global climate change is bound to have substantial negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing, effects which will primarily be felt by vulnerable populations and those with pre-existing serious mental illness.[46] Research done by Berry, Bowen, and Kjellstrom in 2008 found that climate change exposes populations to trauma, which negatively impacts mental health in very serious ways.[47] Both the Clayton study and the Berry study identify three classes of psychological impacts from global climate change: direct, indirect, and psychosocial.[46][47] The Clayton study claims that in order to appreciate these impacts on psychological wellbeing, one must recognize the different cultural narratives associated with climate change, as well as how climate change and global phenomena like increased population, are interrelated. Climate change does not impact everyone equally; those of lower economic and social status are at greater risk and experience more devastating impacts.[46] A 2018 study of CDC data connected temperature rise to increased numbers of suicides.[48] The study revealed that hotter days could increase suicide rates and could cause approximately 26,000 more suicides in the U.S. by 2050.[49]

#### Direct impacts

Direct impacts on mental health happen when a community experiences extreme weather and changed environment.[46] Direct impacts like landscape changes, impaired place attachment, and psychological trauma are all immediate and localized problems resulting from extreme weather events and environmental changes.[46] Extreme weather events cause negative changes to landscape and agriculture. This leads to communities facing economic aspects, especially for communities that use agriculture as a main source of income. After economic fall, communities face loss of livelihoods and poverty. Many communities will also face isolation, alienation, grief, bereavement, and displacement from these effects.[47][50] Individuals will have an increased rate of anxiety and emotional stress. The rate of effects on mental health increases in already-vulnerable communities.[50] Clayton reinforces that the more powerful the extreme weather event, and the more frequent these weather events are, the more damage is done to the mental health of the community.[46] Some of the extreme weather events responsible for these mental health changes include wildfires,[50] earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods,[47] and extreme heat.[51]

#### Indirect impacts

Indirect impacts on mental health occur via impacts on physical health and community well-being. Physical health and mental health have a reciprocal relationship.[47] If the physical health of an individual is negatively impacted, the decline in mental health will soon follow.[47] These impacts are more gradual and cumulative. They are threats to emotional wellbeing through concern and uncertainty about future risks.[46] They are also large-scale community and social effects, like conflicts related to migration and subsequent shortages or adjustment after a disaster. Extreme weather events play a major role here; their impacts can be indirect, not just direct.[47] This is due to the effect on physical health from extreme weather events. Each extreme weather event affects humans in different ways, but they all lead to the decline of mental health.[47] Heat indirectly causes mental health issues through physical health issues. The World Health Organization presents the fact that high extreme heat is directly related to certain ailments like cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and asthma. One piece of their evidence is that in summer 2003, during Europe's big heat wave, there were 70,000 recorded deaths related to the heat.[51] Heat exhaustion also occurs during extreme heat. As climate change continues, heat will continue to rise and these problems will exacerbate. These physical problems lead to mental health problems. As physical health worsens and is less curable, mental stability starts to deteriorate.[47]

As extreme heat makes landscapes dry, nature is more prone to fire. Research shows that rising heat due to climate change has caused an increase in fires around the United States.[52] Burns and smoke inhalation from the increasing number of fires lead to a decline in physical health, which leads to mental health problems. Deaths of family and friends cause individuals to suffer from stress and other conditions. Many suffering from loss of family and friends will internalize their emotions, feel extreme guilt and helplessness, and become paranoid. Others will develop fear of future loss and have an overall displacement of feelings that could last for years.[53] Anderson published research in the American Psychological Association that shows the increase in murders in the United States directly correlates with the temperature increase. For every one-degree Fahrenheit, there will be nine more murders in the country, which leads to an additional 24,000 murders or assaults per year in the United States.[54]

There is also an increased risk in suicide in communities that suffer from extreme weather events. Studies show that suicide rates increase after extreme weather events. This is evidence for the decline in mental health.[55] The increased suicide risk has been demonstrated in Australia , where drought has resulted in crop failures and despair to the Australian countryside. After the event, farmers were left with almost nothing. They were forced to sell their belongings, reduce their stock, and borrow large sums of money to plant crops at the start of the next season.[55] These consequences have caused a growing increase in depression, domestic violence, and suicide. More than one hundred farmers in the Australian countryside had committed suicide by 2007.[55] An individual's suicide often leads to mental health problems of loved ones. They face issues like those who have lost loved ones due to fire: grief, sadness, anger, paranoia, and others.[53]

Some impacts pertaining to mental health are even more gradual and cumulative than the others, like social interaction, media, and communication.[46] The social interaction between communities and within communities is greatly affected by migration. Communities choose to migrate, or are forced to migrate, due to stressors on limited resources. This is worsened by extreme weather events caused by climate change.[50] Common mental health conditions associated indirectly from these extreme weather events include acute traumatic stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, complicated grief, anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, and sexual dysfunction. Drug abuse and alcohol abuse are also common aftereffects, and can lead to both physical and mental issues, addiction and substance reliance being the most common.[50]

The effects of Hurricane Katrina, a past extreme weather event in New Orleans, lead to a variety of mental health problems due to the destruction of resources[55] Many people impacted by Hurricane Katrina were left homeless, disenfranchised, stressed, and suffering physical illness. This strain on the public health system decreased access and availability of medical resources.[55] Some climate change adaptation measures may prevent the need for displacement. However, some communities may be unable to implement adaptation strategies, and this will create added stress, further exacerbating already existing mental health issues.[50] Extreme weather events and population displacement lead to limited availability of medications, one of the primary resources required to meet psychological and physical needs of those affected by such events. Less medication and medical resources means fewer people can get the help they need to recover. Slowed recovery and lack of recovery worsen overall mental health.[50]

#### Psychological impacts

Psychological impacts are the effects that heat, drought, migrations, and climate-related conflicts have on social life and community life. This includes post-disaster adjustment.[46] Most of these effects are indirect instead of direct, but Clayton and Berry place them in a separate category because they deal with the relationships within a community.[46][47] Many of the results are from how people use and occupy territory.[46] Human migration of large communities causes discord within those communities because the already scarce resources are even more limited during migration.[50] Agriculture and aquaculture are severely impacted by the extreme weather events of climate change, the suitability of territory being the most notable kind of change.[46] During and after migration, the geographical distribution of populations is altered.[46] Children and parents may be separated at these times. The early separation of kids from their parents can cause symptoms of grieving, depression, and detachment in both the young and old.[53] The loss in resources can also lead to inter-community violence and aggression. Two groups may fight over remaining natural resources. A community may choose to migrate to find better resources, and encroach on another community's territory, either accidentally or purposefully.[46] Civil unrest can occur when governments fail to adequately protect communities against the extreme weather events that cause these effects. When this happens, individuals lose confidence and trust in their government. A loss in trust can be the beginning of oncoming mental health problems.[53][56] The disruption of a community when they are forced to relocate results in the deterioration of geographic and social connections. This leads to grief, anxiety, and an overall sense of loss.[57]

## 3. Climate Change and Permafrost

Permafrost is an important part of our environment and plays an important role in maintaining the stability of many ecosystems around the world.

### 3.1. Soil Sustainability

Permafrost is integral to soil stability in arctic regions.[58] Melting permafrost causes the surrounding soil to become unstable and settle.[58] Settlement of surface soil associated with melting permafrost leads to significant infrastructure instability and damage to roads, bridges, buildings, homes, pipelines and airstrips in affected areas.[58]

## 4. Impact on Natural Resources

### 4.1. Drinking Water

Global Health Corps reports that when interruptions in the regular water supply, "forces rural and impoverished families to resort to drinking the dirty, sediment-and-parasite-laden water that sits in puddles and small pools on the surface of the earth."[59] Many are aware of the presence of contamination, but will drink from these sources nonetheless in order to avoid dying of dehydration. It has been estimated that up to 80% of human illness in the developing world can be attributed to contaminated water. [60]

When there is an adequate amount of drinking water, humans drink from different sources than their livestock. However, when drought occurs and drinking water slowly disappears, catchment areas such as streams and depressions in the ground where water gathers are often shared between people and the livestock they depend on for financial and nutritional support, and this is when humans can fall seriously ill. Although some diseases that are transferred to humans can be prevented by boiling the water, many people, living on just a litre or two of water per day, refuse to boil, as it loses a certain percentage of the water to steam.[61]

The sharing of water between livestock and humans is one of the most common factors in the transmission of non-tuberulosis mycobacteria (NTM). NTM is carried in cattle and pig feces, and if this contaminates the drinking water supply, it can result in pulmonary disease, disseminated disease or localized lesions in humans with both compromised and competent immune systems.[62] During drought, water supplies are even more susceptible to harmful algal blooms and microorganisms.[63] Algal blooms increase water turbidity, suffocating aquatic plants, and can deplete oxygen, killing fish. Some kinds of blue-green algae create neurotoxins, hepatoxins, cytotoxins or endotoxins that can cause serious and sometimes fatal neurological, liver and digestive diseases in humans. Cyanobacteria grow best in warmer temperatures (especially above 25 degrees Celsius), and so areas of the world that are experiencing general warming as a result of climate change are also experiencing harmful algal blooms more frequently and for longer periods of time. During times of intense precipitation (such as during the “wet season” in much of the tropical and sub-tropical world, including Australia and Panama), nutrients that cyanobacteria depend on are carried from groundwater and the earth's surface into bodies of water. As drought begins and these bodies gradually dry up, the nutrients are concentrated, providing the perfect opportunity for algal blooms.[64][65][66]

### 4.2. Fresh Water

As the climate warms, it changes the nature of global rainfall, evaporation, snow, stream flow and other factors that affect water supply and quality. Freshwater resources are highly sensitive to variations in weather and climate. Climate change is projected to affect water availability. In areas where the amount of water in rivers and streams depends on snow melting, warmer temperatures increase the fraction of precipitation falling as rain rather than as snow, causing the annual spring peak in water runoff to occur earlier in the year. This can lead to an increased likelihood of winter flooding and reduced late summer river flows. Rising sea levels cause saltwater to enter into fresh underground water and freshwater streams. This reduces the amount of freshwater available for drinking and farming. Warmer water temperatures also affect water quality and accelerate water pollution.[67]

## 5. Impact on Livestock

Climate change is beginning to lead the global population into a food shortage, greatly affecting our livestock supply. Although the change in our climate is causing us to lose food, these sources are also contributing to climate change, essentially, creating a feedback loop. Greenhouse gases, specifically from livestock, are one of the leading sources furthering global warming; these emissions, which drastically effect climatic change, are also beginning to harm our livestock in ways we could never imagine.

### 5.1. Greenhouse Gas Effects

Our agricultural food system is responsible for a significant amount of the greenhouse-gas emissions that are produced.[68][69]

According to the IPCC, it makes up between, at least, 10-12% of the emissions, and when there are changes in land due to the agriculture, it can even rise as high as 17%. More specifically, emissions from farms, such as nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide, are the main culprits, and can be held accountable for up to half of the greenhouse-gases produced by the overall food industry, or 80% of all emissions just within agriculture.[69]

The types of farm animals, as well as the food they supply can be put into two categories: monogastric and ruminant. Typically, beef and dairy, in other words, ruminant products, rank high in greenhouse-gas emissions; monogastric, or pigs and poultry-related foods, are low. The consumption of the monogastric types, therefore, yield less emissions. This is due to the fact that these types of animals have a higher feed-conversion efficiency, and also do not produce any methane.[69]

As lower-income countries begin, and continue, to develop, the necessity for a consistent meat supply will increase.[69][70] This means the cattle population will be required to grow in order to keep up with the demand, producing the highest possible rate of greenhouse-gas emissions.[69]

There are many strategies that can be used to help soften the effects, and the further production of greenhouse-gas emissions. Some of these strategies include a higher efficiency in livestock farming, which includes management, as well as technology; a more effective process of managing manure; a lower dependence upon fossil-fuels and nonrenewable resources; a variation in the animals' eating and drinking duration, time and location; and a cutback in both the production and consumption of animal-sourced foods.[69][70][71][72]

### 5.2. Heat Stress

Heat stress on livestock has a devastating effect on not only their growth and reproduction, but their food intake and production of dairy and meat. Cattle require a temperature range of 5-15 degrees Celsius, but upwards to 25 °C, to live comfortably, and once climate change increases the temperature, the chance of these changes occurring increases.[70] Once the high temperatures hit, the livestock struggle to keep up their metabolism, resulting in decreased food intake, lowered activity rate, and a drop in weight. This causes a decline in livestock productivity and can be detrimental to the farmers and consumers. Obviously, the location and species of the livestock varies and therefore the effects of heat vary between them. This is noted in livestock at a higher elevation and in the tropics, of which have a generally increased effect from climate change. Livestock in a higher elevation are very vulnerable to high heat and are not well adapted to those changes.

## 6. Impact on Plant Based Food

Climate change has many potential impacts on the production of food crops—from food scarcity and nutrient deficiency to possible increased food production because of elevated carbon dioxide (CO
2
) levels—all of which directly affect human health. Part of this variability in possible outcomes is from the various climate change models used to project potential impacts; each model takes into account different factors and so come out with a slightly different result.[73] A second problem comes from the fact that projections are made based on historical data which is not necessarily helpful in accurate forecasting as changes are occurring exponentially.[74] As such, there are many different possible impacts—both positive and negative—that may result from climate change affecting global regions in different ways.[74][75]

### 6.1. Food Scarcity

Food scarcity is a major key for many populations and is one of the prominent concerns with the changing climate. Currently, 1/6 of the global population are without adequate food supply.[76] By 2050, the global population is projected to reach 9 billion requiring global food productions to increase by 50% to meet population demand.[76][77] In short, food scarcity is a growing concern that, according to many researchers, is projected to worsen with climate change because of a number of factors including extreme weather events and an increase in pests and pathogens.

### 6.2. Extreme Weather

#### Rising temperatures

As the temperature changes and weather patterns become more extreme, areas which were historically good for farmland will no longer be as amicable.[78][79] The current prediction is for temperature increase and precipitation decrease for major arid and semi-arid regions (Middle East, Africa, Australia , Southwest United States, and Southern Europe).[78][80] In addition, crop yields in tropical regions will be negatively affected by the projected moderate increase in temperature (1-2 °C) expected to occur during the first half of the century. During the second half of the century, further warming is projected to decrease crop yields in all regions including Canada and Northern United States.[80] Many staple crops are extremely sensitive to heat and when temperatures rise over 36 °C, soybean seedlings are killed and corn pollen loses its vitality.[81] Scientists project that an annual increase of 1 °C will in turn decrease wheat, rice and corn yields by 10%.[80]

There are, however, some positive possible aspects to climate change as well. The projected increase in temperature during the first half of the century (1-3 °C) is expected to benefit crop and pasture yields in the temperate regions.[73] This will lead to higher winter temperatures and more frost-free days in these regions; resulting in a longer growing season, increased thermal resources and accelerated maturation.[74][75] If the climate scenario results in mild and wet weather, some areas and crops will suffer, but many may benefit from this.[73]

#### Drought and flood

Extreme weather conditions continue to decrease crop yields in the form of droughts and floods. While these weather events are becoming more common, there is still uncertainty and therefore a lack of preparedness as to when and where they will take place.[75][82] In extreme cases, floods destroy crops, disrupting agricultural activities and rendering workers jobless and eliminating food supply. On the opposite end of the spectrum, droughts can also wipe out crops. It is estimated that 35-50% of the world's crops are at risk of drought. Australia has been experiencing severe, recurrent droughts for a number of years, bringing serious despair to its farmers. The country's rates of depression and domestic violence are increasing and as of 2007, more than one hundred farmers had committed suicide as their thirsty crops slipped away. Drought is even more disastrous in the developing world, exacerbating the pre-existing poverty and fostering famine and malnutrition.[73]

Droughts can cause farmers to rely more heavily on irrigation; this has downsides for both the individual farmers and the consumers. The equipment is expensive to install and some farmers may not have the financial ability to purchase it.[78] The water itself must come from somewhere and if the area has been in a drought for any length of time, the rivers may be dry and the water must be transported from further distances. With 70% of “blue water” currently being used for global agriculture, any need over and above this could potentiate a water crisis.[73][76] In Sub-Saharan Africa, water is used to flood rice fields to control the weed population; with the projection of less precipitation for this area, this historical method of weed control will no longer be possible.[83]

With more costs to the farmer, some will no longer find it financially feasible to farm. Agriculture employs the majority of the population in most low-income countries and increased costs can result in worker layoffs or pay cuts.[73] Other farmers will respond by raising their food prices; a cost which is directly passed on to the consumer and impacts the affordability of food. Some farms do not export their goods and their function is to feed a direct family or community; without that food, people will not have enough to eat. This results in decreased production, increased food prices, and potential starvation in parts of the world.[76]

### 6.3. Financial

Some research suggests that initially climate change will help developing nations because some regions will be experiencing more negative climate change effects which will result in increased demand for food leading to higher prices and increased wages.[73] However, many of the projected climate scenarios suggest a huge financial burden. For example, the heat wave that passed through Europe in 2003 cost 13 billion euros in uninsured agriculture losses. In addition, during El Nino weather conditions, the chance of the Australian farmer's income falling below average increased by 75%, greatly impacting the country's GDP. The agriculture industry in India makes up 52% of their employment and the Canadian Prairies supply 51% of Canadian agriculture; any changes in the production of food crops from these areas could have profound effects on the economy.[74][79] This could negatively affect the affordability of food and the subsequent health of the population.

### 6.4. Pests and Pathogens

Currently, CO2 levels are 40% higher than they were in pre-industrial times. This diminishes nutritional content for both human and insect consumption. Studies have shown that when CO2 levels rise, soybean leaves are less nutritious; therefore plant-eating beetles have to eat more to get their required nutrients. In addition, soybeans are less capable of defending themselves against the predatory insects under high CO2. The CO2 diminishes the plant's jasmonic acid production, an insect-killing poison that is excreted when the plant senses it's being attacked. Without this protection, beetles are able to eat the soybean leaves freely, resulting in a lower crop yield. This is not a problem unique to soybeans, and many plant species’ defense mechanisms are impaired in a high CO2 environment.[77]

Currently, pathogens take 10-16% of the global harvest and this level is likely to rise as plants are at an ever-increasing risk of exposure to pests and pathogens.[77] Historically, cold temperatures at night and in the winter months would kill off insects, bacteria and fungi. The warmer, wetter winters are promoting fungal plant diseases like soybean rust to travel northward. Soybean rust is a vicious plant pathogen that can kill off entire fields in a matter of days, devastating farmers and costing billions in agricultural losses. Another example is the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic in BC, Canada which killed millions of pine trees because the winters were not cold enough to slow or kill the growing beetle larvae. The increasing incidence of flooding and heavy rains also promotes the growth of various other plant pests and diseases.[84] On the opposite end of the spectrum, drought conditions favour different kinds of pests like aphids, whiteflies and locusts.

The competitive balance between plants and pests has been relatively stable for the past century, but with the rapidly shifting climate, there is a change in this balance which often favours the more biologically diverse weeds over the monocrops most farms consist of.[84] Currently, weeds claim about one tenth of global crop yields annually as there are about eight to ten weed species in a field competing with crops. Characteristics of weeds such as their genetic diversity, cross-breeding ability, and fast-growth rates put them at an advantage in changing climates as these characteristics allow them to adapt readily in comparison to most farm's uniform crops, and give them a biological advantage. There is also a shift in the distribution of pests as the altered climate makes areas previously uninhabitable more uninviting.[81] Finally, with the increased CO2 levels, herbicides will lose their efficiency which in turn increases the tolerance of weeds to herbicides.[84]

## 7. Impact on Nutrition

Another area of concern is the effect of climate change on the nutritional content of food for human consumption. Studies show that increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 have an unfavourable effect on the nutrients in plants. As the carbon concentration in the plant's tissues increase, there is a corresponding decrease in the concentration of elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc and iodine. Of significant concern is the protein content of plants, which also decreases in relation to elevating carbon content.[74][77][85]

Irakli Loladze explains that the lack of essential nutrients in crops contributes the problem of micronutrient malnutrition in society, commonly known as “hidden hunger”; despite adequate caloric intake, the body still is not nutritionally satisfied and therefore continues to be “hungry”.[86] This problem is aggravated by the rising cost of food, resulting in a global shift towards diets which are less expensive, but high in calories, fats, and animal products. This results in undernutrition and an increase in obesity and diet-related chronic diseases.[76][86]

Countries worldwide are already impacted by deficiencies in micronutrients and are seeing the effects in the health of their populations. Iron deficiency affects more than 3.5 billion people; increasing maternal mortality and hindering cognitive development in children, leading to education losses. Iodine deficiency leads to ailments like goitre, brain damage and cretinism and is a problem in at least 130 different countries.[86] Even though these deficiencies are invisible, they have great potential to impact human health on a global scale.

Small increases in CO2 levels can cause a CO2 fertilization effect where the growth and reproduction abilities of C3 plants such as soybeans and rice are actually enhanced by 10-20% in laboratory experiments. This does not take into account, however, the additional burden of pests, pathogens, nutrients and water affecting the crop yield.[85][87]

## 8. Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies

While researchers acknowledge there are possible benefits of global warming, most agree that the negative consequences of climate change will outweigh any potential benefits and instead the shifting climate will result in more benefits to developed countries and more detriments to developing countries; exacerbating the discrepancy between wealthy and impoverished nations.[77][87] By thoughtful and proactive efforts, climate change can be mitigated by addressing these issues with a multidisciplinary approach that works on a global, national and community basis that recognizes the uniqueness of each country's situation.[76][79]

According to a study of East Africa’s smallholder farms, impacts of climate change on agriculture are already being seen there resulting in changes to farming practices such as intercropping, crop, soil, land, water and livestock management systems, and introduction of new technologies and seed varieties by some of the farmers.[82] Some other suggestions such as eliminating supply chain and household food waste, encouraging diverse and vegetable-rich diets, and providing global access to foods (food aid programs) have been suggested as ways to adapt.[73][76][77] Many researchers agree that agricultural innovation is essential to addressing the potential issues of climate change. This includes better management of soil, water-saving technology, matching crops to environments, introducing different crop varieties, crop rotations, appropriate fertilization use, and supporting community-based adaptation strategies.[74][76][79][84][88] On a government and global level, research and investments into agricultural productivity and infrastructure must be done to get a better picture of the issues involved and the best methods to address them. Government policies and programs must provide environmentally sensitive government subsidies, educational campaigns and economic incentives as well as funds, insurance and safety nets for vulnerable populations.[73][76][77][79][88] In addition, providing early warning systems, and accurate weather forecasts to poor or remote areas will allow for better preparation; by using and sharing the available technology, the global issue of climate change can be addressed and mitigated by the global community.[76]

## 9. Oceans and Human Health

### 9.1. Overview

Perhaps one of the most recent adverse effects of climate change to be explored is that of ocean acidification. Our oceans cover approximately 71 percent of the Earth's surface and support a diverse range of ecosystems, which are home to over 50 percent of all the species on the planet.[89] Oceans regulate climate and weather as well as providing nutrition for a vast variety of species, humans included.[89] Covering such an extensive part of the planet has allowed the oceans to absorb a large portion of the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.[90] This process is part of the carbon cycle in which the fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere, biosphere and lithosphere are described.[91] Humans have drastically added to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and the process of deforestation. Oceans work as a sink absorbing excess anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2). As the oceans absorb anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) it breaks down into carbonic acid, a mild acid, this neutralizes the normally alkaline ocean water. As a result, the pH in the oceans is declining. In the research surrounding global climate change we are only just beginning to realize that our oceans can sequester a finite amount of CO2 before we start seeing impacts on marine life that could lead to devastating losses. Acidification of our oceans has the potential to drastically alter life as we know it - from extreme weather patterns and food scarcity to a loss of millions of species from the planet - all of these consequences hold the potential to directly affect human health.

### 9.2. Coral

With degradation of protective coral reefs through acidic erosion, bleaching and death, salt water is able to infiltrate fresh ground water supplies that large populations depend on.[92][93] Nowhere is this more evident than atoll islands. These islands possess limited freshwater supplies, namely ground water lenses and rain fall. When the protective coral reefs surrounding them erodes due to higher temperatures and acidic water chemistry, salt water is able to infiltrate the lens and contaminate the drinking water supply.[92] In coastal Bangladesh it has been demonstrated that seasonal hypertension in pregnant women is connected with such phenomenon due to high sodium intake from drinking water.[93] Reef erosion, coupled with sea level rise, tends to flood low-lying areas more frequently during storm surges and weather events. Warming ocean waters generate larger and more devastating weather events that can decimate coastal populations especially without the protection of coral reefs.

## 12. Displacement/migration

Climate change causes displacement of people in several ways, the most obvious—and dramatic—being through the increased number and severity of weather-related disasters which destroy homes and habitats causing people to seek shelter or livelihoods elsewhere. Slow onset phenomena, including effects of climate change such as desertification and rising sea levels gradually erode livelihoods and force communities to abandon traditional homelands for more accommodating environments. This is currently happening in areas of Africa's Sahel, the semi-arid belt that spans the continent just below its northern deserts. Deteriorating environments triggered by climate change can also lead to increased conflict over resources which in turn can displace people.[129]

Extreme environmental events are increasingly recognized as a key driver of migration across the world. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 42 million people were displaced in Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011, more than twice the population of Sri Lanka. This figure includes those displaced by storms, floods, and heat and cold waves. Still others were displaced drought and sea-level rise. Most of those compelled to leave their homes eventually returned when conditions improved, but an undetermined number became migrants, usually within their country, but also across national borders.[130]

Asia and the Pacific is the global area most prone to natural disasters, both in terms of the absolute number of disasters and of populations affected. It is highly exposed to climate impacts, and is home to highly vulnerable population groups, who are disproportionately poor and marginalized. A recent Asian Development Bank report highlights “environmental hot spots” that are particular risk of flooding, cyclones, typhoons, and water stress.[131]

To reduce migration compelled by worsening environmental conditions, and to strengthen resilience of at-risk communities, governments should adopt policies and commit financing to social protection, livelihoods development, basic urban infrastructure development, and disaster risk management. Though every effort should be made to ensure that people can stay where they live, it is also important to recognize that migration can also be a way for people to cope with environmental changes. If properly managed, and efforts made to protect the rights of migrants, migration can provide substantial benefits to both origin and destination areas, as well as to the migrants themselves. However, migrants – particularly low-skilled ones – are among the most vulnerable people in society and are often denied basic protections and access to services.[131]

The links between the gradual environmental degradation of climate change and displacement are complex: as the decision to migrate is taken at the household level, it is difficult to measure the respective influence of climate change in these decisions with regard to other influencing factors, such as poverty, population growth or employment options.[130] This situates the debate on environmental migration in a highly contested field: the use of the term 'environmental refugee', although commonly used in some contexts, is disrecommended by agencies such as the UNHCR who argue that the term 'refugee' has a strict legal definition which does not apply to environmental migrants.[132] Neither the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change nor the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement on climate change, includes any provisions concerning specific assistance or protection for those who will be directly affected by climate change.[133]

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