Editor Note - (2021) Volume 5, Issue 1
Increasingly intense economic activities are triggering a range of global environmental risks to health and well-being of unprecedented scale and of a systemic nature. Climate change is a burgeoning reality. The global mean surface temperature has increased by 0.74±0.18°C over the last 100 years, while the global average sea level has risen by 1.8 mm per year since 1961, and Arctic sea ice is shrinking by 2.7±0.6% per decade. In addition, the sea surface temperature is rising, mountain glaciers are retreating at increasing rates, surface ocean waters are getting more acidic and more frequent extreme weather events have been observed.
Increasingly intense economic activities are triggering a range of global environmental risks to health and well-being of unprecedented scale and of a systemic nature. Climate change is a burgeoning reality. The global mean surface temperature has increased by 0.74±0.18°C over the last 100 years, while the global average sea level has risen by 1.8 mm per year since 1961, and Arctic sea ice is shrinking by 2.7±0.6% per decade. In addition, the sea surface temperature is rising, mountain glaciers are retreating at increasing rates, surface ocean waters are getting more acidic and more frequent extreme weather events have been observed. Human beings are exposed to climate change through changing weather patterns (for example more intense and frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in water, air, food quality and quantity, ecosystem functions, agriculture and the economy. Today, it is certain that climate change contributes to the global burden of disease and premature deaths. Emerging evidence of the effects of climate change on human health show that climate change has not only altered the distribution of some infectious disease vectors and the seasonal distribution of some allergenic pollen species, but has also increased the risk of heat-waverelated deaths. In the future, exposure to the effects of climate change is likely to lead to various trends related to human health, such as an increase in undernutrition globally and in the number of people suffering from diseases and injuries directly related to heat-waves, floods, storms, fires and drought. The incidence of diarrhoeal diseases and the frequency of cardiorespiratory diseases as a result of higher concentrations of ground level ozone are also likely to increase. Climate change is expected to have mixed effects on infectious diseases, and might bring some benefits to health, through, for example, fewer deaths from exposure to the cold. However, this is expected to be outweighed by the negative effects of rising temperatures worldwide, in particular in developing countries. The dilemma with climate change is that it is different from many of the other types of environmental exposures: all countries in the world are affected; it is expected to become more acute over the next decades, even with greenhouse gas emissions stabilizing at year 2000 levels – and thus children will be those most affected; it plays an important role in the spatial and temporal distribution of infectious diseases and thus can affect health security; the effects are unequally distributed and are particularly severe in countries with already high disease burdens or in populations with low adaptive capacity; and the effects are highly complex and will involve a number of processes, developments, sectors and activities. Furthermore, recent events have demonstrated that populations and health systems may be unable to cope with increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These events can reduce the resilience of communities, affect vulnerable regions and localities and overwhelm the coping capacities of most societies. This is a preliminary evaluation report, using international and national literature and with the help of expert advice. The aim was to assess the potential risks of climate change to human health in Italy, to see what preventive actions are available and to suggest what may be additionally needed. Human societies have had long experience of naturally occurring climatic vicissitudes. The ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Mayans and European populations were all affected by nature's great climatic cycles. More importantly, disasters and outbreaks of disease have occurred often in response to the extremes of regional climatic cycles. Hippocrates already recognized that people cannot understand diseases without looking at the wind, the sun and humidity. Weather is the continuously changing condition of the atmosphere, usually considered on a time scale that extends from minutes to weeks. Climate is the average state of the lower atmosphere, and the associated characteristics of the underlying land or water, in a particular region, usually spanning at least several years. Climate variability is the variation around the average climate, including seasonal variations and large-scale regional cycles in atmospheric and ocean circulations such as the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or the North Atlantic Oscillation. Climate change occurs over decades or longer time scales. Until now, changes in the global climate have occurred naturally, across centuries or millennia, due to continental drift, various astronomical cycles, variations in solar energy output and volcanic activity. Over the past few decades it has become increasingly apparent that human actions are changing the composition of the atmosphere, thereby causing global climate change.