Environment Health News

Climate Change and Karachi

Pitch:

We summarize the effect of climatic changes and its effect on the public health. It has been unanimous scientific consensus about the drastic changes in climate occurring over the surface of Earth due to global warming and natural disasters. Here, we have explored the research-based evidence linking the climate change and the effect on the health in vulnerable regions. Anticipation of these links will hopefully strengthen the government and health policies and also help in avoiding the dangerous impacts of industries.

Article:

What is Climate Change? How should we respond to Climate Change? These questions are complex, not least because the responses available to us depend upon who is providing the answers and the particular perspective they take. The economist sees the economic challenges and opportunities of Climate Change; the scientist sees the need to describe and explain Climate Change; the policy-maker and social scientist see Climate Change as a social problem and the health professionals see Climate Change as a public health problem. Therefore, the first step to understanding Climate Change and what we do about it is to see how experts from different disciplines engage with the issue. The second step is to appreciate how our response to Climate Change depends upon the interplay between these different approaches. We are not going to discuss all the different approaches and disciplines here but the overall aim is to provide an introduction of health related aspects due to the phenomenon of Climate Change.

Climate change is having and will continue to have a dramatic impact on global public health – from natural disasters and the increased spread of infectious disease to predicted crop losses and heat waves and affecting human health in many ways. The climatic changes are projected in three ways; changes in temperature, changes in sea level and extremes in hydrological cycle.

Climatologically, most parts of Pakistan are arid to semi-arid with significant spatial and temporal variability in climatic parameters. 59% of the annual rainfall is due to monsoon rains making our country mostly tropical continental in nature.(1) It is estimated that the average global temperature is have risen from 1 C to 3.5 C increasing the likelihood of vector-borne diseases such as Dengue fever, malaria, encephalitis, etc.(2) During the last decade, there was an increase in cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Khyber Pakhtoonkhua in end of the year due to increase rainfall.(3) Human susceptibility to infections might be further compounded by malnutrition due to climate stress on agriculture and potential alterations in the human immune system caused by increased flux of ultraviolet radiation.(4)

Climate-related increases in sea surface temperature and sea level can lead to higher incidence of water-borne infectious and toxin-related illnesses, such as cholera.(4) The growth of algae in surface waters, estuaries and coastal waters is sensitive to temperature. Warmer sea temperatures can encourage a shift in species composition of algae toward the more toxic dinoflagellates. (5)

Karachi being at the coastal region enjoys a tropical coastal climate with hot summers and mild winter. The issue of climate changes in Karachi causes rapid shifts in weather patterns resulting in adverse impacts on the physical and natural environment. It is crucial to study the impacts of floods, droughts, extreme heatwaves, and sea level rise; for the health of the city and to prepare ourselves to take preventive measures and timely management. Thermal extremes recently reported all over Pakistan have caused 1100 deaths due to heat stroke causing an irreparable damage to the country, its city, Karachi, has been worst hit; particularly due to the ‘urban heat island’ phenomenon, which climatologists say make 45-degree temperatures feel like 50-degree heat. The government has come under fire for neglecting to sound the alarm in advance. We don’t have proper channels of forecasting the weather changes and we also lack the proper health resources to effectively manage any emergency situations.

In summary, climate has been impacting the public health in many ways by affecting agriculture production to altering the natural blooms and microorganisms making human susceptibility to infections and health hazards. Its time, we frame and prepare ourselves for the future impacts of climate. It also bring us to balance the human actions that are detrimental in bringing the adverse climatic changes such as deforestation, unplanned urbanization, crowding and industrial designs, etc. Scientists have been warning many times that the climatic changes will occur frequently, it’s high time that the government should take measures and useful steps for the drastic weathers and emergency crisis.

References:

  1. Farooqi, Anjum Bari, Azmat Hayat Khan, and Hazrat Mir. “Climate change perspective in Pakistan.” Pakistan J. Meteorol 2.3 (2005).
  2. Githeko, Andrew K., et al. “Climate change and vector-borne diseases: a regional analysis.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 78.9 (2000): 1136-1147.
  3. Bouma, M. J., C. Dye, and H. J. Van der Kaay. “Falciparum malaria and climate change in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan.” (1996).
  4. Patz, Jonathan A., et al. “Global climate change and emerging infectious diseases.” Jama 275.3 (1996): 217-223.
  5. Haines, Andrew, Anthony J. McMichael, and Paul R. Epstein. “Environment and health: 2. Global climate change and health.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 163.6 (2000): 729-734.

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About the author

Syed Muhammad Mustahsan Zaidi

I am a final year medical student at Sindh medical college, Dow university of Health Sciences. I am also an editorial member at two international journals and I have 8 national and international publications.