Health, Global Warming & A Christmas Carol
Global warming will affect our health in ways you might not expect.
Because the air will be warmer, we’ll experience more frequent, more intense, and longer heat waves. As a result, many more people will suffer from heat stroke and related conditions, and some will die—especially children, the elderly, and poor people.
We’ll also have more droughts, which will make it harder to get water to drink and food to eat. That too will affect our health, as will the bigger and more intense wildfires that we’re just beginning to experience in the U.S.
Warmer air is dirtier air. It contains more ozone, which will cause more coughs and sore throats and will also make asthma and emphysema worse. Ozone can also lead to a variety of respiratory diseases. Allergies will be more intense because there will be far more pollen in the air in the years ahead.
As the temperature rises, Lyme disease, West Nile encephalitis, and even Dengue fever will spread here in Wisconsin.
Because warm air holds more water than cold air does, global warming means we’ll have more intense rain, extreme storms, and floods. The rain and snow storms will be bigger, longer, and more destructive. That too will affect our health.
In 1993, Milwaukee experienced an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis. A severe storm had led Milwaukee to release raw sewage into Lake Michigan. That sewage, in turn, caused the outbreak. We can expect the bigger storms to have similar consequences in the years ahead.
And yet . . . we all remember Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” After Scrooge sees the future consequences of his past bad behavior, he asks the Ghost of Things to Come, “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” He then demands, “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”
Climate scientists are our Ghosts of Things to Come. They have shown us what the future consequences of our present and past behavior will be. But, they’ve also shown us how to alter our behavior in ways that will improve our health in the future.
We’re causing the global warming crisis by burning fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But, we can reduce the impact it will have by putting a price on carbon that reflects its true cost to all of us in terms of our health and wellbeing.
At least 150,000 people are already dying each year as a result of global warming, according to the World Health Organization, while millions more are being made ill. It’s up to us to make the changes that bring those numbers down.
Urge Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson to introduce the carbon fee and dividend legislation that would reduce the rate of global warming and its effects on our health.