Health is affected by climate change
Climate change refers to the change in the earth’s global and regional climate over time. Healthy people depend on having a healthy climate. The expected health impacts and implications of climate change, including those for New Zealand, have been described by a number of authoritative sources such as the World Health Organisation and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.
Some of the health impacts of expected climate changes include:
- an increase in heat-related deaths and reduced cold-related deaths to due to changes in weather patterns;
- more storms and flooding, affecting the health and wellbeing of communities;
- increased risk of vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria or dengue fever from mosquitos), and food- and water-borne diseases due to ecosystem changes;
- changes in food production patterns and food security for both locally produced and imported feed, due to greater fluctuation in crop yields and a decrease in productive land;
- changes in water quality especially in rural areas leading to water allocation issues;
- flow-on social and economic impacts, contributing to increased mental health effects; and
- widening of health and social inequalities as the disadvantaged will be disproportionately impacted.
These substantial health impacts are likely and will be widespread, even though the details on the extent of these impacts are uncertain.
Our Pacific neighbours are already feeling the effects of climate changes. These countries are particularly vulnerable to the expected increases in frequency and severity of storms, as well as the sea level rise due to limited economic capacity and insecure infrastructure. New Zealand can expect migration pressure in the future from “climate refugees” from the Pacific.
Adapted from: Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) submission to the NZ Climate Change Target Discussion Document 2015.
How we can combat climate change
The serious impacts of climate change on health means that efforts need to be made to address greenhouse gas emissions and move towards a low carbon future through supportive policies and programmes.
Community and Public Health supports local efforts to combat climate change by encouraging local policies to include the following:
- greater use of public transport;
- reducing overall vehicle use, and improving engine efficiency;
- reducing the amount of energy we use; and
- properly insulated houses.
Local councils declare a climate emergency
Environment Canterbury and Christchurch City Council have both declared a climate emergency during May 2019.
“Climate change presents significant challenges, risks and opportunities to Canterbury and we’ve long acknowledged the urgent need to address climate change for the benefit of current and future generations” says Deputy chair of Environment Canterbury Peter Scotts. “The Council’s role is to support the region and its communities to better understand and proactively respond”.
“We are acknowledging that we need to better prepare ourselves for the impacts of climate change and that we need to work with our communities on mitigation measures and co-created adaptive planning tools. Christchurch City Council has already set itself the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. We are now working towards setting a carbon neutral target for the city as a whole in consultation with our communities.” says Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
A large number of local governments and cities worldwide have recognised a climate emergency in some form.
Contact your local CPH office for further information:
Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6125
Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091
Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169
For more information on climate change including emissions trading, contact:
Ministry for the Environment
0800 CLIMATE (0800 254 628)
Climate change not so cool: Heat Health Plan Guidelines
The Ministry of Health’s Heat Health Plan Guidelines were launched in Janaury 2019.
“Climate change is a big threat to our society, and we need to plan for anticipated weather like hotter days now,” says Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter. “Our health will be impacted by climate change, and we need to ensure we are all ready.”
The number of days where the temperature exceeds 25 degrees Celsius is expected to increase between 40 and 100 percent by 2040.
“Extreme heat can cause problems for everyone, but it can be especially concerning for babies and infants, pregnant women, older people, those with pre-existing medical conditions, and those with disabilities,” Ms Genter said.
“Research shows that hospital admissions and deaths increase during periods of hot weather. Climate change also has an impact on people’s productivity at work, the primary industries and our economy.”
“These Heat Health Plan Guidelines are aimed at helping health and community service providers – including local government – prepare their own plans dedicated to their community and their own predicted weather variations,” Ms Genter said.