Vulnerability to the impacts of climate change has been studied extensively in recent years but two new studies highlight specific impacts of changing weather and pollution on human health.
From changed weather patterns spreading diseases like malaria to new regions to air pollution increasing the risk of late-onset depression, climate change has significant consequences for our well-being, safety, and health, which is closely linked to the environment we live in.
Malaria mosquitoes move to higher elevations
Studies we have previously cited have shown climate change exacerbates infectious disease, but a study published Tuesday in Biology Letters shows, as Good Day BIO notes, “the ‘clear and dramatic links’ between animal habits, weather, and disease transmission.”
The study has found clear evidence that over the past century, mosquitoes in Sub-Saharan Africa have moved to higher elevations (21 feet/year) and away from the equator (3 miles/year), matching the range and transmission rates of malaria as well as observed climate patterns.
To paint a clearer picture, The New York Times explains in its article that “as the planet warms, plants, and animals—particularly invertebrates—are seeking cooler temperatures, either by moving to higher altitudes or by moving closer to the poles.”
This shifting, as the article points out, “may explain why malaria’s range has expanded over the past few decades” and can have “serious implications for countries that are unprepared to cope with the disease.”
Air pollution exposure increases geriatric depression
However, it seems that the climate change-induced onslaught of infectious diseases is not the only issue raising serious concerns.
As a study published Friday by JAMA found “statistically significant harmful associations between long-term exposure to common levels of air pollution and increased risk of depression diagnosis after age 64 years,” listing air pollution as a potential risk factor for late-onset depression.
The researchers wrote that even lower levels of exposure to air pollution have “implications for both environmental regulation and public health management.”
“Late-life depression should be a geriatric issue that the public and researchers need to be paying more attention to, like on a similar level with Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions,” said Xinye Qiu, study co-author and postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health.
Noting that “there’s no real threshold [for exposure to air pollution],” she emphasized that “future societies will want to eliminate this pollution or reduce it as much as possible because it carries a real risk.”
From genetically engineering mosquitoes to control disease and ensuring animals can withstand hotter temperatures in the short term, to addressing the root problems of rising emissions and warming with sustainable fuels, carbon removal technology, and biomanufacturing, biotech offers a myriad of solutions.