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.
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)