Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Will Climate Change Do To You And Other People?

I am going to try to put this information into words that are easy to understand for normal people who are not rocket scientists. I think it is a bad idea to leave out most of the people on Earth from understanding this important stuff that affects all of us. 

I am not telling you this to discourage you. It is the opposite. I think that there are things we can all do about this problem. I am not saying it will be easy, or that we will like doing them. We need to do them anyway, in order to survive.

I got this information from my class on the Health Effects of Climate Change. It is taught by a Medical Doctor who takes care of children and a scientist who has been studying what is happening to our air for about 35 years. Both of them want more people to understand this stuff also. 

There is a problem with them doing this. They are very very smart and have a hard time putting things into language normal people can understand. I am having trouble myself, but I already knew a lot about it before, so that helps me out some.

This particular bit of information that sorts out what will happen to us because of climate change was written by another Doctor, Anthony J. McMichael. Here is a link to it in case you want to see it yourself:

The part that I am basing this on is in a little part that you have to click to see in the article. It is in a table, that you can make full screen on your computer so that you can see it better. It is called, "Table 1. Categories of Climate-Change Risks to Health, According to Causal Pathway.

The table sorts the health problems that we will get from climate change into three areas. 

The first one is called, "Primary" health problems. This is things that climate change does that will get us and our health directly. His categories for this are: heat waves, extreme weather events, and temperature-enhanced levels of urban air pollutants.

Not everyone will understand about what heat waves do to your health. I have been in more than a couple of record-breaking heat events. If you have not, I can guarantee you won't like them. The first one I was in was in a town where we got a 30 day long triple digit or higher spell of hot weather. That means it was 100 degrees Farenheit for 30 days in a row with no cooling off.  (100 degree Fahrenheit = 37.7777778 degree Celsius).  As if that wasn't bad enough, the same place set another record for 40 days of triple digit heat while I was still there. I could not get out of there fast enough.

You may think you don't have to worry about this in your area. Wrong. Climate change is going to cause record heat all over the world. You are not likely to escape it, especially if we don't get busy and stop making climate change worse.

"Extreme weather events", means we will get more, and worse, of the kind of weather we already hate. These are weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, floods, etc. An example of the kind of "extremes" we will be dealing with are hurricanes like Sandy. 

Sandy set all kinds of unpleasant records for size. In case you don't already know, Sandy reached all the way from the East Coast of the USA to our far inland state of Ohio. This is an area bigger than many of the countries in the world.

I believe it was last year, 2012, where the USA set a world record for tornadoes. We had over 800 of them. We not only got more tornadoes, but they did more damage and covered a much bigger area than is usually affected by tornadoes. People got hit by tornadoes, who thought they would never see one.

Whatever weather we are used to is getting hotter, colder, wetter, bigger and worse in every way we can imagine and climate change will keep making this worse and worse for the rest of our lives.

"Temperature-enhanced levels of urban air pollutants means that if it is hotter, breathing polluted air in cities will make you sicker and kill more people than it already does. There was a woman who lived in that city with the triple digit heat records who was killed this way. 

She already had asthma and other health problems. She was the single parent of three little children, the oldest a toddler. She was found dead in her home with her children crying over her body. This one incident is almost enough to make me cry while I write about it. She is only one person and her children are only three more people. There are more like them and there will be a lot more. 

We need to stop climate change from getting worse so we don't get endless numbers of children crying over dead mother's and father's bodies or parents crying over dead children. We can work to stop this sadness from continuing and spreading.

The next "Causal Pathway", is the secondary risks that get us indirectly. The ones mentioned are, "food yields, water flows, infectious-disease vectors, and intermediate-host ecology". This means things like the drought that hit over 90% of all of the agricultural land in the USA last year. The USA normally exports food and feeds people in other parts of the world. The USA is not even doing a good job at feeding its own people because of that drought. That means people in other countries are going hungry because of our drought.

The drought in the USA also caused food prices to go up all over the world, because there was less food to go around.

Water flows does not mean only drinking water. It includes things like water for growing food, or cleaning,
or manufacture. 

"Disease vectors", means things that carry a disease to you. An example of this is the bubonic plague a long time ago in Europe. Rats were supposed to have carried fleas that carried the bubonic plague germs inside them. The rats took the fleas wherever they went. The fleas jumped off of the rats and bit the humans. When the fleas bit the humans, they gave bubonic plague to the humans. Vectors are the "middlemen" of disease. 

When climate change warms up places that used to be colder, it makes it possible for animals that could not live there before, to start living there. That can include disease-carrying vectors, like rats.

"Intermediate host ecology", Whoops. Sorry. The fleas are the prime vector and the rats that carried them were intermediate hosts. The fleas only stayed on the rats for a short while. The normal home of those fleas was another kind of rat. That short stay of the fleas on the European Roof Rats made them intermediate hosts.

The last category of bad things that climate change can do to your health and the health of everyone else, is called Tertiary. That means, "thirdly". The third group of bad climate change health effects can be things that are harder to pin on climate change, but still would not happen without it.

This third group of climate change bad health effects are things like, "mental health problems in failing farm communities, displaced groups, disadvantaged indigenous and minority ethnic groups". There is a subset of this third group, that I will cover next.

I get to see a lot of the mental health problems similar to the ones mentioned. Alaska still has a lot of people who live in small remote communities, who have never been to a big town and who live lives that are not a lot different than before Alaska was invaded by white people.

Over 180 communities in Alaska are being flooded out by rising ocean waters. Two island communities have already been scheduled to be evacuated. Their houses have been falling into the ocean every year when the winters storms hit them. 

Big chunks of their land disappear with the storms and even without the storms. These two islands will probably be completely underwater soon. These two island villages are called, "Kivalina", and "Shishmaref". I have already posted about them. Both are trying desperately to raise money to save their communities.

The government of Alaska just wants to move these people into the big cities. The people who live in these flooding villages mostly do not like this idea. Some of them speak their native languages as the main language in their villages. They are afraid that their languages, customs, and ways of life will be swallowed up by the big cites just like the ocean is swallowing their villages back home.

Some of the villagers who are being flooded, have already ended up in the city where I live. I see them on the bus, and at the bus stops and in the stores. 

They often have a dazed, lost look their faces. Some of them hide it better. Some have never seen a bus, let alone ridden one, or figured out how to do it. They can have the same sort of trouble shopping in a huge department store for the first time, or times, or even forever.

I believe this is culture shock. I have probably experienced a little of this sort of thing myself. It was not as bad for me as it is for the villagers. I had already moved around a lot when I was a child and seen lots of different things. It was easier for me than it is for them. It was enough so that I have some idea of how they feel. It is only a small reflection, though.

This same sort of thing is happening all over the world. Some Pacific islands have already gone under the ocean, and only have bits sticking up for a few months out of the year. The people were evacuated to New Zealand and other places. One of these islands was Tuvalu. I already posted about it, and the people I met in New Zealand.

The last part of the third group of health effects from climate change are called, "consequences of tension and conflict owing to climate change-related declines in basic resources (water, food, timber, living space). This is a fancy way of talking about war and the kinds of things that go along with it. 

Not many people are going to simply give up when they see their homes being gobbled up by the ocean, or they see their children going hungry and starving to death in front of their eyes. They will fight to get what they need. They will kill other people, or die trying to get what they need to stay alive.

It is something we have to expect from climate change. Lots of people will die fighting over what they need to survive. This will get worse and worse as climate change gets worse and takes away more of what more people need to survive.

You can try to hide from all of the bad health effects of climate change, but it will not work. If you want to have a decent life much longer, you will have to change what you do. 

Almost everyone on Earth is now making climate change worse. We are doing it very fast. Even the most pessimistic, depressing predictions of what climate change would do in the future have turned out to be too optimistic. We are wrecking our home, the Earth, very fast. It is happening much faster than even expected.

Because of the speed with which we are making climate change worse, we do not have much time to make our changes before it will be too late to fix it. We will all have to work together to do fix climate change. First we have to stop making it worse. 

The changes that we need to make in what we do are not Rocket Science. They will not all be changes that we will like, but we can't live without the changes. It is time for us to get busy making them.

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