How climate change threatens health 2

How climate change threatens health

Climate change is usually considered an environmental problem – it can be overlooked that it could endanger human health as temperatures rise with the number of infections, allergies and antibiotic resistance.

End of June: Five people in Europe die from heatstroke due to heat up to 45 degrees Celsius. Mid-August: According to authorities, 23 people in Japan die from extreme heat and high humidity. For Austria, the number of fatalities attributable to high temperatures in 2018 is 766 – and from a health standpoint that is not the only consequence, the climate crisis is leading to other health risks.

More resistance in warm areas

For example, the new thesis is that antibiotic resistance increases with increasing temperature, as statistics from the US at least suggest. Why this is so is unclear, said ecologist Veronika Huber of the Spanish University Pablo de Olavide at the Alpbach European Forum. "After bacteria grow faster at higher temperatures, it is possible that resistance transfers may occur more quickly."

Ecologist Veronika Huber

ORF / Daser

Veronika Huber

Science has repeatedly warned that pathogens can spread as a result of climate change. Tropical mosquitoes will then find in Central Europe the living conditions that suit them. An Asian tiger mosquito or Japanese bush mosquito can transmit viruses from previously known in the tropics: yellow fever, dengue, West Nile virus. In Spain, the transmission of Chikungunya fever was reported for the first time this year. This is good news from Austria, no known cases so far.

In addition, climate change also seems to trigger allergies. Widespread grass is just one example, as flowering time, time and length of pollen season may increase in other plants.

The phenomenon of "care for the environment"

As Huber points out, there are also statistical indicators that the climate crisis is affecting mental health: there are, therefore, more suicides at higher temperatures in the US. And: "According to studies, extreme events such as floods, storms and fires – where people lose things – lead to post-traumatic stress disorders."

Concerns about the future can also strain your health and psyche. "Environmental lamentation" is the name of this phenomenon investigated by the Inuit: According to Huber, climate change is particularly affected by this ethnic group. "Since then, anxiety, depression and fear of loss have been found to emerge more and more – out of concern for the future."

Health systems in central Europe should learn from the south, says an environmentalist working in Spain – she advocates, urging social workers to actively see or invite older people in the heat of the day when asked about publicly accessible, chilled rooms and cities would you should overshadow and green more squares and streets.

Barbara Daser, Ö1-Wissenschaft

More on this topic: