As we come off the battered wings of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves sitting on the precipice of the brewing climate conundrum — another worldwide phenomenon threatening to pincer human health.
To say the warming planet will have severe implications on human health is a terrifying understatement, especially after acknowledging the disproportionate manner in which the behemoth bullies the underprivileged.
Below, we elaborate on the four dire ways in which climate change could threaten human life around the world (as highlighted by Alan Buis from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), along with the impact they could have on India.
India is no stranger to the mosquito menace, since our natural climate is highly suitable for the insect. While we have made vast strides in controlling the pest, the warming planet is once again creating conducive conditions for their spread.
According to a 2014 study, mosquitos have begun migrating to higher altitudes and latitudes, aided by changing climates. Increasing rainy events are helping them expand their breeding grounds, while climbing mercuries are allowing them to breed quicker and for more extended periods.
Ticking into the Lymelight
You don’t really see Lyme disease too much in Indian news, mainly due to the way it remains somewhat sparse and understudied in the country. However, it was recently thrust into the spotlight after Justin Bieber revealed his struggle with the illness two years back.
Caused by deer ticks, the disease can be severe and chronic, manifesting in flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, body pain, headaches, joint pain and a very characteristic rash. If left untreated, it can affect the heart, joints and the nervous system. Lyme disease remains a public health concern in India, with prominent outbreaks detected in Haryana and Assam.
And of late, Lyme occurrences have been skyrocketing worldwide, with scientists blaming climate change as a contributing factor. Satellite data showed that residential areas next to woodlands had a higher risk of transmission. But as the Earth warms, more parts could become habitable to these critters.
Pollen (open) season
While Indians regularly make fun of Americans for suffering from pollen allergies, one to four in ten people actually suffer from the allergen in our country as well, making it one of the most common outdoor allergies in India.
These are usually aggravated during summer and spring, causing acne, rashes, nasal congestions, constant runny nose, coughing and sneezing, among other bothersome symptoms. This allergy can also lead to severe asthma attacks in susceptible people.
Due to the ever-increasing amount of carbon dioxide levels in the air, plants have begun to bloom earlier and produce pollen for longer durations year after year, research has shown. Combined, these factors could increase the number of pollen-related hospitalisations in the country.
As the globe continues to warm, the world could see the devastating awakening of the zombie germs slumbering in the frozen Arctic soils as they thaw. This could re-introduce a plethora of diseases from ancient microbes that may be highly resistant to modern antibiotics.
In addition, researchers fear that these frozen mummies could end up exchanging genetic materials with modern bacteria, creating “superbugs” that could gradually kill wildlife and topple ecosystems, putting human health at risk.
Once the archaic germs and superbugs proliferate, international movement could eventually bring them to countries such as India, putting large sects of populations at severe risk. Scientists estimate that about two-thirds of permafrost near the Arctic land surface could thaw by 2100.
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