What are the impacts of climate change on human health?
The climate crisis is the single biggest threat to global health. Rising global temperatures and the disruption of ecological systems create a huge number of very different human health impacts.
Natural catastrophes and extreme weather including hurricanes, wildfires and flooding will become much more common and cause resettlements, injuries and death.
The prevalence and geographical distribution of many infectious diseases will change, as hosts and vectors of these diseases are able to expand their territory with changing temperatures. Longer allergy-seasons, spikes in ozone pollution, generally increasing air pollution and more frequent heat waves will lead to more severe cases of respiratory diseases like asthma as well as cardiovascular disease.
Unstable and extreme weather conditions will jeopardise the world’s food and water supply. Rising sea levels and other previously mentioned factors will force huge migration movements leading to civil conflicts and societal distortions. All these conditions in an increasingly unstable environment affect mental health tremendously and will lead to more anxiety, despair, depression and post-traumatic stress.
What do we need to do to prevent climate change?
The good news is that we can avoid most of these crises by stabilizing global warming temperatures to a maximum of 1.5 °C. For this to happen, all economic and societal sectors must cut CO2 emissions dramatically. To reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, global emissions need to be down to 50% by 2030 and at the latest down to (net) zero by 2050.
What impact does agriculture have on the environment?
The global food system is responsible for about 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions and thus transformation of this system is highly important in the fight against climate crisis. More than half of the emissions in the food sector come from animal products, making the reduction or complete exclusion of animal products the single biggest step any one of us can make to reduce our food-related emissions. Research shows that the more plants in our diets, the better for our climate and the environment.
Through a global switch to plant-based diets, we would cut emissions of the food system to a level aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement. To effectively tackle the climate crisis, the future crisis of healthcare and the greatest health threat in human history, we need to empower as many people as possible to adopt a (whole food,) plant-based diet.