There’s a good chance, that if you’re reading this now, you will be breathing polluted air. In fact 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe air well below safe quality limits. This is a huge public health issue, with an estimated 6.5 million people dying every year from illnesses directly associated with air pollution around the world.
Not only that, but virtually all pollution is man-made, and is of course a major contributor to climate change. This, alongside a rising frequency in extreme weather events, is a global public health problem. In fact, between 2030 and 2050, the World Health Organisation expects 250,000 more human deaths per year as a result of public health failings in the face of climate change.
Climate change is also affecting our susceptibility to disease. Many prevalent human infections such as malaria and dengue fever are climate sensitive, with rising temperatures expected to facilitate population increases in mosquitoes, which act as vectors for these diseases. Water-borne diseases are also infecting people with increasing frequency as floods and heavy rains contaminate water supplies with land runoff.
It’s important, therefore, to think about how man-made climate change is affecting our human rights to health. These rights, which include access to medical services and sanitation – taken for granted by many of us in the West – are at risk of being taken away.
Climate change isn’t simply an environmental problem, it’s an issue of social justice, and needs to be approached as such. A changing climate, generated by resource exploitation in the name of capitalism, is preparing to strip us of our basic human rights. Understanding the problem in this way is paramount if we are to tackle the problems of tomorrow, today.