Before I begin: Climate change is real. If you don’t agree, read this. If you do agree, read this. Just please read this.
The last topic I did in Humanities was Climate Change. I thought I already knew quite a lot about climate change, considering it was a topic I was already quite passionate about. I also knew that Australia’s energy sources are not sustainable at all, and we’ve had quite a lot of issues with the environment and how it is dealt with in the government.
However, I was shocked and horrified at the extremity of climate change. I wasn’t aware of how severely and how quickly our world is dying. We watched a documentary in class, An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, a former US presidential candidate. After watching the documentary, we were given an assignment asking us to write a 600 word report on at least two aspects of climate change and how they affect the world. I chose to write a report on the effects of climate change on human health. I hadn’t heard much about how climate change could affect humans’ mental and physical health, as opposed to the health of our planet.
Because I am very passionate about the issue of climate change, I’ve decided to share the report I wrote.
The Effects of Climate Change on Human Health
Making the Case for Action
The environment we live in greatly affects our physical and mental health as human beings. The earth is currently undergoing drastic environmental transformations as a result of climate change. Since 1910, Australia’s mean temperature has warmed by 0.9ºC, and seven of the ten warmest years on record have happened since 1998. Our earth is warming due to the massive amount of greenhouse gases being released into the air. The extreme changes in our environment over such a short period of time is harmful to our health as humans.
As a result of the heating earth, the water in our oceans is getting warmer and therefore melting the giant glaciers and ice caps. This is causing sea levels to rise rapidly; over the last century, the global mean sea level has risen by 10 to 20 centimetres. Although this may not seem like much, a recent study estimates the water levels may rise up to 2 metres by 2100. This is enough to flood many cities on the coast of the USA and other coastal cities around the world. This would cause displacement of populations, damaged property, stress and anxiety and perhaps even the loss of loved ones, which could greatly contribute to mental health issues.
The increases in water temperatures and changes in the coastal ecosystem health results in a higher risk of waterborne diseases and contamination of food sources. Changes and contaminations in our food sources leads to malnutrition, which is already a problem in Africa.
One of the main causes of the warming of the ocean is the emission of greenhouse gases across the globe. Some of the largest contributors include Australia, the Unites States, Canada and Russia. The greenhouse gas emissions in the USA can be reduced using the Clean Power Plan, presented by the Environmental Protection Agency. This plan establishes state-by-state targets for gas emissions, encouraging large businesses to opt for cleaner sources of energy. The States are encouraged to participate in emission trading programs, and must submit a finalised action plan for a cleaner country by September 6, 2016.
The annual costs range from $1.4 billion to $2.5 billion in 2020, however the plan would be worth $20 billion in 2030 and would lower the overall cost of electricity bills over time. It would also greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air.
The Ivanpah Project, located in Ivanpah Dry Lake in California is a solar panel farm consisting of over 300 000 soft-ware controlled solar panels, and annually delivers electricity to 140 000 homes in Los Angeles. After only taking three years to build it has been operational since December 2013. The solar panels create reflect sunlight to the water boilers which sit atop three 140 metre tall towers. This heats the water, and the high-temperature steam is then piped to a turbine where electricity is generated. Power transmission lines carry the power to various homes and businesses throughout LA.
The economic benefits of this project were immense. At its peak, the Ivanpah project provided 2 636 people with employment, hiring mostly local workers, and approximately $350 million in local and state taxes was paid.
The environmental benefits are even greater. The power plant uses land efficiently by building towers, and has limited impact on the land by using heliostat pylons as opposed to concrete foundations, which can prevent vegetation. It improves the air quality by avoiding emitting millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases. It also uses 95% less water than wet-cooled water solar plants by opting for a dry-cooling process, using air instead of water to condense the steam.
Suggesting a Direction
Because our earth and health is so precious, it is vital to take immediate action on stopping climate change and using clean and renewable energy sources. In terms of larger businesses, it is crucial that large measures are taken to invest in solar and wind power. However on a small scale, it is also possible to install solar panels on the roof of your own home and buy a partially electric car. If everyone did small things like this to help the environment, it would still make a difference. Climate change is not only a threat to our home planet, but a threat to our health as a population.
- Bureau of Meteorology (Australia) – State of the Climate Report
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (USA) – A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change Report
- World Health Organisation (International) – World Health Statistics 2016: Monitoring health for the SDGs (Report and annexes)
- The Health and Environment Linkages Initiative [HELI] (USA)
- Union of Concerned Scientists (USA) – Global Warming Solutions: Reduce Emissions
- Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] (USA)
- Bernie Sanders Website (USA) – Issues: Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet
- National Geographic (Australia) – Signs From the Earth: The Big Thaw
- Bright Source Energy (International) – Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System [ISEGS]
If you’re looking for places to donate to the cause of climate change, Climate Council (Australia), Green Peace (USA), and Campaign Climate Change (UK) are great places to start. Our Earth is a precious place. We have to take care of it.
Header Image: This picture was taken while I was waiting at a bus stop. It had just stopped raining, hence the puddle next to me. I noticed how this puddle next to me was so clear it was reflecting the clouds in the sky. I was alone at the bus stop, so I decided to take a picture of it. I took several pictures and decided to include my hand in the reflection because #art. At the precise moment where I was sticking out my hand in an odd manner and taking a picture of a puddle, a man in a suit walked past and gave me a judging look. It was only later that I realised the puddle is kind of shaped like Australia.