From heatwaves to hurricanes, from droughts to floods, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, putting lives at risk. Human activity is causing our climate to change. The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emission from our cars, our industries and our power plants are heating up the plant. Due to increasing levels of heat, sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and precipitation patterns are changing.
After extreme weather storms like hurricane Sandy or Katrina and the World Health Organization (WHO), explored the alarming facts and severe effects of climate change on our planet, vital political and technological work started to moderate our climate chaos, but I am here to evoke a feeling in you. World leaders are meeting on international forums to talk about the climate crisis and how to slow it down. And they’re under pressure from millions of people around the world calling for solid action against climate change.
What is Climate Change?
Before going into details, let’s talk about the very basic question that what is climate change? The level of carbon dioxide is increasing in atmosphere. Basically CO2 emission took off during industrial revolution. We started breaking CO2 records in 1950, and we haven’t sopped since. Why?
Well scientists say there are 95% chance that human activity is the main cause. We’ve been burning more and more fossil fuels like oil and coal, which releases CO2, which is posing a serious threat to our existence. The global population has triples in the past 70 years. And we are consuming more products from animals that release another pollutant called methane. So all the gases in the air, and when sunlight gets into earth’s atmosphere, some of the heats gets trapped and the planet get warmer. That’s why scientists called it the greenhouse effect.
But the concern is not that the earth is getting warmer. The UN says that right now our earth is about 1 degree hotter than pre-industrial time. That’s around the year 1800, which is okey. In fact the UN says if we warm by 1.5 degrees before the end of the century should be fine. The UN says even 2 degrees would be probably be alright, but again the problem is speed. Because right now, we are on track to hit 1.5 degree in upcoming ten years. And if we don’t slow that warming down, it could mean catastrophe within my life and yours too. And we ae already getting the taste.
Over the last 50 years, human activities – particularly the burning of fossil fuels – have released sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which badly lower atmosphere affect the global climate.
- According to facts by World Health Organization (WHO), between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250, 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
- The hottest 20 years on record occurred within the last 22. The UN expects that two-thirds of the global population may face water shortages only six years from now. The World Bank predicts that by 2050, there’s going to be 140 million climate refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia. And other estimates put that number at over one billion.
- Mass migrations and resource scarcity increase the risk for violence, war and political instability. The UN just reported that we are pushing up to a million species to extinction, many within decades, and our emissions are still increasing, even after the Paris Agreement.
How Climate Change Affects Mental Health?
Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the effects of climate change on our health but the most unfortunate findings that are currently being explored is the impact it has on mental health, particularly with respect to that of our children and future generations.
When we hear or read somewhere that, some specific regions in the world will be destroyed, world will face severe scarcity of water, human survival will become difficult on this planet due to climate change, then ultimately, anxiety and stress engulfed our thoughts and we started feeling helpless. From last few years, climate change was not taken as a serious issue, politicians and policy makers around the world were only talking about unemployment, political crisis and other issues. They didn’t felt the need to design awareness campaigns about this serious issue. But with the passage of time, youngsters took the responsibility and raised their voices against this less talked issue.
If you’ve been impacted by climate disaster, these feelings can set in much deeper, leading to shock, trauma strained relationships, substance abuse and even the loss of personal identity and control. Mental health can also be affected by other impacts of climate change, including food scarcity or food quality issues, potential increases in diseases transmitted by insects (such as Lyme disease and malaria) and air pollution.
On the other hand, flooding and droughts have been associated with elevated levels of anxiety, depression and stress disorders. The after effects of disasters such as losing a home or job and being disconnected from neighborhood or family members can lead a person to depression and anxiety.
Serous steps by world leaders and people around the world are the requirement of the hour for the existence of human life in upcoming years. Mental health needs to be an integral part of any climate change survival strategy, requiring funding, and ethics of equity and care, and widespread awareness. Because even if you’re the most emotionally avoidant person on the planet, there’s no rug in the world that’s big enough to sweep this up under.
Fighting climate change
Planting vegetation and trees close to our homes and within our communities can prove to be very beneficial, both in the short and long run. Plants effectively purify the the air and can also cool down temperatures, resulting in a healthier environment.
Choosing to walk, cycle or travel by eco-friendly public transportation greatly reduces one’s carbon footprint and also keeps one physically fit. An environmentally conscious mass public transit should be introduced and investment in electric vehicle infrastructure should be actively encouraged.
The emphasis should be on reducing waste and using recyclable alternatives to single use products that are harmful for the environment.
The use of solar panels and wind turbines in public and private buildings should be encouraged. Policies that support energy conservation should be introduced along with relevant awareness campaigns.
These steps will go a long way in combating the effects of climate change which in turn will should alleviate some of the mental anxiety and trauma associated with extreme weather events that our children and our communities experience.