Resources Lesson 1: Climate Change in the Context of Environmental Sustainability
Climate change in the context of environmental sustainability
The climate is only one part of the environment and ecosystem, and health impacts of climate change should be seen in that context. The figure below, from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published by WHO in 2005.
The figure above is quoted in http://www.who.int/globalchange/environment/en/
"Large-scale and global environmental hazards to human health include climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, changes in ecosystems due to loss of biodiversity, changes in hydrological systems and the supplies of freshwater, land degradation, urbanization, and stresses on food-producing systems.
The page Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability from WHO states:
Additional health risks: heat exposure
Investment in preventative health
Improving health while cutting carbon emissions
"The term ecosystem refers to the combined physical and biological components of an environment. These organisms form complex sets of relationships and function as a unit as they interact with their physical environment. The causal links between environmental change and human health are complex because they are often indirect, displaced in space and time, and dependent on a number of modifying forces. Human health ultimately depends upon ecosystem products and services (such as availability of fresh water, food and fuel sources) which are requisite for good human health and productive livelihoods. Significant direct human health impacts can occur if ecosystem services are no longer adequate to meet social needs. Indirectly, changes in ecosystem services affect livelihoods, income, local migration and, on occasion, may even cause political conflict. The resultant impacts on economic and physical security, freedom, choice and social relations have wide-ranging impacts on well-being and health, and the availability and access to health services and medicines.""
They go on to outline the need for a new approach: "The knowledge and methods developed by health promoters to advance social change to improve health can and should be used to promote the social changes needed to promote ecohealth. Such promotion will have symbiotic benefits for the health of human populations and the state of the physical environment. The challenge is to ensure government commitment to health-promoting policies, whatever they are called, and to advance partnerships between the new and old health players. Health promotion cannot abandon its pursuit of social justice. Without sustainability, neither health nor social justice can be attained."
Climate change and food security
You might like to explore this paper Reducing risks to food security from climate change. which outlines the far reaching effects of climate change on food security.
Please take a look at the range of papers from the Lancet discussing the issue of Planetary Health. The executive summary includes the statement: "A growing body of evidence shows that the health of humanity is intrinsically linked to the health of the environment, but by its actions humanity now threatens to destabilise the Earth’s key life-support systems. As a Commission, we conclude that the continuing degradation of natural systems threatens to reverse the health gains seen over the last century. In short, we have mortgaged the health of future generations to realise economic and development gains in the present".
Equity. Climate change may affect various population groups differently, both between and within countries. One paper focuses on urban health Climate change, equity and the Sustainable Development Goals: an urban perspective and suggests "Climate change is acknowledged as the largest threat to our societies in the coming decades, potentially affecting large and diverse groups of urban residents in this century of urbanization. As urban areas house highly diverse people with differing vulnerabilities, intensifying climate change is likely to shift the focus of discussions from a general urban perspective to who in cities will be affected by climate change, and how. This brings the urban equity question to the forefront. Here we assess how climate change events may amplify urban inequity. We find that heatwaves, but also flooding, landslides, and even mitigation and adaptation measures, affect specific population groups more than others."
Cultural factors. As Linda Connor states in Anthropogenic Climate Change and Cultural Crisis: An Anthropological Perspective "The peoples and communities long studied by anthropologists – many of whom are Indigenous and/or living in postcolonial, neo-colonial and socioeconomically marginal conditions – are particularly vulnerable. As ACC threatens all aspects of human-ecosystem relationships, Indigenous and small-scale food producer livelihoods and cultural practices become less viable. Anthropological studies in societies of the global North also reveal the vulnerabilities and inequities for many social groups and local communities at risk from ACC effects."
Connor quotes Crate and Nuttall "…climate change is a threat multiplier. It magnifies and exacerbates existing social, economic, political, and environmental trends, problems, issues, tensions, and challenges". In addition Connor states:
"...climate change scepticism and denial are considered as significant cultural phenomena requiring anthropological analysis. Anthropology also provides the methods to understand the broader field of climate change concern and action in specific local contexts..."