Every year, the 22nd of April is celebrated as Earth Day. The day was first commemorated in 1970 and marks the start of the modern environmental movement. But, despite 50 years of mobilisations, the global warming crisis has continued to escalate and is changing weather patterns across the world.
Two years ago, in 2018, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a study called “Global Warming of 1.5C”. The report was prepared by over 90 scientists from 40 different countries. Their main aim was to understand the devastation that would occur if temperatures were increased by 1.5°C versus if it increased by 2°C. The results are alarming. At 1.5°C, we risk losing 70-90% of our coral reefs and 8% of plants would lose 50% of their climatically-determined geographic range. With a 2°C increase, we would lose 99% of our coral reefs and 24% of plants would lose 50% of their climatically-determined geographic range. While those numbers are already alarming, more recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that climate change is responsible for at least 150,000 deaths every year. This number is predicted to double by 2030 unless strict measures are taken.
But that’s not all. Global warming is also harming our health in numerous ways. Let’s take a look at how global warming and changing weather patterns could affect our overall health:
Insect-borne diseases: The IPCC predicts that due to the increase in temperatures, there will be a rise in the mosquito population. This will escalate the risk of dengue, malaria and other insect-borne diseases in tropical regions. But the risk is not localised. The WHO states that this will also affect Europe, and countries like Turkey, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan may already be in the danger zone.
Asthma and other respiratory diseases: The sudden outbreak of COVID-19, a serious respiratory disease, has already given us a picture of what lies ahead if we do not change our lifestyle immediately. Other respiratory diseases like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) will accelerate with increased temperatures causing airway inflammation and lung tissue damage further compounding the problem.
Heatwaves: The IPCC predicts that global warming will lead to warmer temperatures in the coming years. This can cause heatstroke, dehydration and hyperthermia and, in extreme cases, can also lead to death.
Food shortages: If we do not take quick corrective actions, the IPCC predicts that by the end of this year, people in Africa will be left without food and water as crops will decline by 50%. This will also lead to food shortages in Asia, leaving more than 130 million people at the risk of starvation.
As the world struggles to find the right balance, it is up to each and every one of us to do what we can to reduce our burden on the earth. This Earth Day, let’s all make a pledge to try more climate-friendly diets, eco-friendly modes of transportation and reduce our use of plastic and fossil fuels. Today, many countries have finally realised the consequences of global warming on this planet. Now, it’s time for us to do the same. So, let’s fight this war like our lives depend on it – because it really does.