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3 Major Impacts of Climate Change on You

Are you aware of climate change? What does climate change cause? Chien Xuan writes about climate change impacts on you.

How much do you know about climate change? Although scientists have predicted that by the year 2050, more than one third of the animal and plant population will go extinct, a survey conducted by Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, states that approximately 40% of the global population is still unaware about climate change. The gradual extinction of the ecosystem will shrink biodiversity and may even result in increased hardships for humans to live. 

Hence, it’s vital for you to start making a change! But first…

What is climate change and its causes?

According to the United Nations, climate change is the long-term shift in temperature and weather patterns. Since the 1800s, its main cause has been human activities, which includes the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. These produce heat-trapping gases and result in an increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

How climate change is affecting you

1. Air Pollution

Since the main cause of climate change is the emission of fossil fuels, it’s no surprise that air pollution has increased significantly over the years. However, the burning of fossil fuels has taken a toll on human health, as the small particles in the air will attack the heart and lungs, therefore increasing the risk of stroke and heart attacks, and might even travel into the bloodstream and affect other organs. 

In Malaysia, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and Greenpeace Malaysia found that approximately 32,000 avoidable deaths occur due to air pollution. 

When inhaled, the air pollutants will enter into our bloodstream affect our lungs causing asthma, shortness of breath. This also increases our risk of getting heart attacks, strokes, cancer (eg. lung, testicular, bronchus cancer). In fact, if you suffer from skin diseases, it’s also likely that your skin condition such as psoriasis may worsen. 

2. Extreme Heat

The increased greenhouse gases in the air also causes the temperature of our surroundings to rise. Nature Climate Change stated that more than one third of heat-related deaths are caused by climate change. Meanwhile researchers in Australia and China showed that climate change is linked to 5 million deaths a year, with 2.6 million of it in the Asian region. They also concluded that cold-related deaths have reduced by 0.5% between 2000 to 2019 while heat-related deaths have risen to 0.2%. 

Kari Nadeau, the director for the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University, said although our human bodies deal with intense heat by sweating,  our bodies wouldn’t be able to cope with continuous high temperatures, which can weaken our heart muscles as our heart has to work harder than usual to pump blood to the rest of the body — causing heart attacks and strokes. This is confirmed by a report by Harvard Medical School

As a Malaysian, we’re probably used to the heat, but according to Code Blue, due to the warming climate, we’ll be experiencing more frequent and intense heat waves. With the increase in temperature, we’re at risk of dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke which can worsen our health. 

3. Mental Health 

It’s no surprise that climate change impacts and deteriorates our mental health. In fact, there’s a new mental health disease specifically for those whose mental health is greatly affected by environmental problems. This new disease is called solastalgia, which is the distress caused by environmental changes when it’s directly connected to our homes. The extreme weather events causes high levels of stress and anxiety, which, in serious cases, may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and even suicide.

Besides, climate anxiety is now a widely recognised term. In a nationwide survey of Malaysian youth perception towards climate change, it’s found that 92% of the 1,393 youths are concerned about the changing climate and the uncertain future. Climate anxiety can be overwhelming and affect the function of our daily lives and make us feel helpless. 

Young ones are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. According to Nasha Lee, a Climate & Environment Specialist, growing children aged 6-12 are able to understand and perceive impacts of climate change which heightens their capacity to experience stress and anxiety about the consequences of climate change and global warming. Children exposed to traumatic events are also more vulnerable than adults because their emotional cognitive abilities are maturing and lack coping strategies. In an interview with BFM, Lee also mentioned about 10% of children who are exposed to traumatic events will develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Going through these experiences increases the risk of anxiety, stress, and depression. 

All is not lost. The number of people suffering from the drastic climate change impacts is overwhelming, but YOU can make a change. Remember, even though you’re just one person, your efforts, no matter how small, contribute to society. By implementing small steps whether it’s walking, cycling or taking public transport instead of driving, eating more vegetables and by practising to reduce, reuse, and recycle, these can already help to reduce the carbon emissions. You’ve the power to make a difference, so we should protect the world and make it a better place.

Liew Chien Xuan is currently pursuing a Cambridge A Levels at Taylor's College. She is also a committee member of Taylor’s Community Service Initiators (C.S.I.) Volunteers.

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