Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Climate change is devastating communities around the world, and Covid-19 is not helping. What will the future look like for me, and other youths of today, if climate change continues to worsen? Will we be the ones who have to pay for the actions of the generations before us?
While this pandemic is sweeping the world, it has also brought to light another big issue that the world is facing right now: Climate Change. The recent reported drops in greenhouse gas emissions in some of the most polluted cities in the world have led to cleaner air and clearer skies, but many experts agree that this upside of Covid-19 is short term.
The world is experiencing the negative impacts of climate change, and Covid-19 is stressing the people that are most affected by it. Being a 19 year old about to start university, I definitely did not expect to be facing a pandemic like Covid-19. Just months ago, I was planning a graduation trip with my friends to visit different countries and relax before we start our university lives. Having to deal with Covid-19 is not easy for anybody, but add climate change to the mix, and this horrible mix of catastrophes seems like a warning sign for my future.
In the list of top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, majority are countries in Africa. The southern tip of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in recent years, with mean temperatures rising 2 times faster than the global average. Later and shorter rainy seasons have threatened the lives of 45 million people with famine. In India, climate change has altered the monsoon patterns. Sudden, extreme rainfall causes floods that destroy properties and crops, followed by a sharp drop in rainfall that brings drought to many areas. People in these drought ravaged countries also face food, money and electricity shortages. The lives of these people are already threatened with little to no access to basic necessities and nutritious food, but here comes Covid-19. Hand washing is vital in preventing the contraction of Covid-19, but in these water scarce countries, people simply cannot do that. Health care facilities there also may not have the water they need to maintain hygienic conditions to treat patients.
The devastation brought on by climate change has negatively impacted communities around the world, and those impacts have made these communities more vulnerable to Covid-19. Climate change is the biggest threat of this century. Experts predict that if global temperatures rise above 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial times, catastrophic changes will occur around the world. If another pandemic were to happen, it would be even harder to manage and contain spread of the disease. Sea level rise caused by the warming of oceans and melting ice could displace up to 300 million people around the world as annual floods ravage their homes. Extreme weather events like heavy rain and snowstorms could occur in more areas, while other areas will experience severe droughts. This is already seen in India, where massive floods in Mumbai is contrasted by the major droughts in Marathwada.
These events could create climate change refugees who have to stay in crowded camps and settlements while looking for a new home, making it easier for diseases to spread.
The warmer temperatures brought on by climate change could also mean a wonderful habitat for disease spreading mosquitoes, and crop eating insect pests. When we look at climate change from this perspective, Covid-19 is just one of the major health threats that people will face before the end of the century.
Mosquitoes can be said to be the deadliest animal in the world, with the diseases they spread claiming 725,000 lives every year. They kill so many more people than sharks, bears or tigers, yet most people are unaware of the danger mosquitoes pose to humanity. If we take a look at Dengue Fever, a disease spread by the Ades mosquitoes, it only affected 9 countries before 1970, according to the World Health Organisation. Today, Dengue Fever has spread to more than 100 countries around the world. Malaria, another mosquito-borne disease, killed roughly 435,000 people in 2017. A recent study by researchers has found that 2 species of mosquitoes, the Ades aegypti and the Ades albopictus, could spread and thrive in areas they currently are not found now by 2050. This will put 49% of the world at risk of mosquito-borne diseases as the mosquito spread to the areas where they live.