Looking Beyond The Crisis: Climate Change

When we think about climate change, we think global warming, changing agricultural conditions, rising temperatures, rising sea levels, change in land use, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more serious impacts of climate change that are so grave yet overlooked. This post will try to unfold some of these issues.


1. Vulnerable Populations

Climate change and racism are two of the biggest challenges of our century, but they are also strongly intertwined. There is a stark divide between those who most exacerbate climate change and those who most suffer its effects. The most affected people are those from developing countries, mainly indigenous or marginalized communities, although they have contributed far less to the increase in carbon emissions.


2. The fight for resources

Many areas are experiencing tidal flooding as rising sea levels cause streets to flood during high tides. In Alaska, some entire coastal communities are relocating because the high sea levels have rendered their homes unhabitable.[1] Recently, coastal areas of Bangladesh, Mexico, and the United States have suffered brutal infrastructure destruction and extreme flooding, killing many thousands and displacing millions.[2] Mass migrations to the cooler rural area are beset by a host of refugee problems, civil unrest, and bloodshed over the conflict for potable water. Human activity is impacting the planet, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the tallest peaks. Scientists have found evidence of microplastics at the peak of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, showing the pervasiveness of humanity’s influence.[3]


Climate change also exacerbates the threat of conflict resulting from a scarcity of bare resources like food and water. Many people in developing countries depend on natural resources, and if those resources are affected by climate change, their ability to feed their families and make a living is significantly impacted. The trauma and losses from a natural disaster, such as losing a home or job or being disconnected from the neighborhood and community, can contribute to depression and anxiety.


3. Mental Illness

People suffering from mental health conditions are more likely to be affected by extreme weather events for several reasons. Psychiatric medications can interfere with a person’s ability to regulate heat and skew their awareness of changes in their body temperature. Although how high temperatures affect mental health is unknown, a federal report published by US Global Change Research Program suggests changes in blood flow to the brain, perhaps exacerbated by medications, and loss of sleep may be factors.[4] Mild stress and distress, high-risk coping mechanisms such as alcoholism, and, occasionally, mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder can be consequences of extreme weather events and slower-moving catastrophes such as droughts.


Those living within higher-developed countries may be physically safe, but the psychological toll is rising, as the increased exposure to apocalyptic possibilities are being more frequently discussed. For many, the only uncertainty is how long we’ll last and how many more generations will see the light of the day. Suicides are the most obvious manifestation of the prevailing despair, but there are milder signifiers such as a sense of loss, unbearable guilt, and fierce resentment at previous generations who didn’t act when action was necessary.


The enormity of the climate crisis can be daunting and dispiriting, but if governments, businesses, civil society, youth, and academia work together, we can create a green future where suffering is diminished, justice is upheld, and harmony is restored between people and planet. If we all join together and work on resolving this issue beginning with own individual efforts, the race against the climate crisis is a race we can definitely win.


 

[1] Erica Goode, (NY TIMES) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/29/science/alaska-global-warming.html 2022 [2] Eric Hilaire, (Guardian, 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2021/dec/29/our-house-was-gone-it-was-sea-and-sand-life-on-the-vanishing-coasts-in-pictures 2022 [3] Freddie Wilkinson,(National Geographic, 2020) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/microplastics-found-near-everests-peak-highest-ever-detected-world-perpetual-planet 2022 [4] Kirstein Weir, ( American Psychological Association, 2016) https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/07-08/climate-change#:~:text=The%20report%20also%20found%20that,events%20develop%20chronic%20psychological%20dysfunction. 2022

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