It’s well documented that our greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate. Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, and extreme weather patterns are just a few of the events affecting people all over the world.
But have you ever thought about how global warming impacts your health?
Thanks to ongoing research, we’re developing a far clearer picture of how our well-being is directly linked to the climate – and what we can do to turn things around.
And so, what are the health benefits of reducing your carbon emissions? Let’s find out.
Clearer Skies and Cleaner Air
While COVID-19 may have brought many of our cities to a standstill – it also gave us a glimpse of just how clean our air could be in a pollution-free world.
With restricted business activity and fewer cars on the road, air pollution dropped significantly in areas all around the country. Researchers at Columbia University found that at the peak of the lockdown, carbon monoxide levels in New York City were 50% below average – and traffic was flowing 35% faster than normal.
“We’ve never seen anything like the drop we saw starting last Friday [March 13]. We often see dips during weekends or over holidays, but this is completely different.” – Roisin Commane, Assistant Professor, Columbia University
Studies have found that as many as 100,000 Americans die every year from conditions linked to air pollution – caused by factors such as vehicle exhausts, power stations, factories, and even methane emissions from local farmland.
Reducing our carbon emissions helps to reverse the impacts of global warming – but it also improves the lives of people in cities all over the world.
A Healthier and More Reliable Water Supply
The effects of global warming extend far beyond the quality of our air. As more studies come out, we’re discovering just how much our greenhouse gas emissions also affect the availability – and purity – of our water.
Global warming contributes to unpredictable rainfall patterns – dubbed “drought and deluge” – in which extended periods of drought are broken by brief, intense periods of rainfall. These downpours can result in flooding and cause high water runoff levels to mix with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals.
Climate change also makes toxic algae blooms more common and intense, making wastewater harder to treat and posing a significant risk to waterways and human health. Greenhouse gasses also raise air temperatures – a factor that can impact the oxygen concentration in rainwater and contribute to lower rainfall levels.
Because all of our delicate ecosystems are connected, the actions we take in one area often have a direct impact on many others. And when we take steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions – such as switching to renewable energy or using public transport instead of individual cars – we’re also directly improving the quality of our water.
Cheaper Healthcare for All
New research has found that along with the health benefits of reducing carbon emissions – we can also save a lot of money.
“Climate change and fossil fuel air pollution are intimately linked. Burning fossil fuels harms our health directly by generating pollutants, and indirectly through release of greenhouse gases. Both the direct and indirect costs are often paid for by taxpayers.” – Citizen’s Climate Lobby
A study found that in 2012, just ten climate-related events – such as severe wildfires and hurricanes – added approximately $10 billion to the US healthcare bill. And without action, we’re likely to see more heatwaves, floods, and storms that impact human lives – and raise the costs of our medical system.
Reducing your carbon footprint by buying a greenhouse gas emissions offset might seem like an additional expense – but it’s actually an effective way to avoid higher medical costs in the future. With healthier air, water, and food, we can significantly reduce the burden on our hospitals and medical staff and avoid many of the climate-related health issues we already see today.
When We Reduce Our Emissions, We Improve Our Health
Taking action against climate change is a great step forward for our environment and our ecosystems – but it also improves our well-being.
From the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the water we drink – everything is impacted by the health of the world around us. And because we now understand the many different sources of greenhouse gas emissions, we can all make smarter choices – and develop cleaner alternatives.
In the short term, you can take measures such as reducing your energy consumption, recycling your waste, making smarter consumer choices, and purchasing carbon offsets. In the longer-term, you can invest in renewable energy, improve your home’s energy-efficiency, and use cleaner modes of transport.
Our health is the most important thing we have, and it’s tied directly to our planet. When we make changes to de-carbonize our lives – even if it’s just one step at a time – it puts all of us on a path to living longer, healthier lives.