Fact Check: Climate change is a threat to humanity, contrary to claim

Climate Change

Activists in NAirobi in this file photo hold up banners as they protest demanding that action be taken to stop environmental disaster in .

Photo credit: File

On November 8, 2022 at 5.10pm, a twitter user by the name Peter Sweden posted that climate change is not a threat to humanity, that climate change will not make humanity extinct and that climate change is a scam by the elite to gain total control.

Climate change, which is defined by the UN as long term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, affects the social determinants of health, such as drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that climate change will cause about 250,000 additional deaths annually between 2030 and 2050.

These deaths, it notes, will result from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

Climate change, notes WHO, is likely to undo the progress made in global health and poverty reduction, by making the existing barriers to accessing health services worse, often when they are most needed.  

“Climate change is already impacting health in a myriad of ways, including by leading to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues,” says WHO.

“Furthermore, climate change is undermining many of the social determinants for good health, such as livelihoods, equality and access to health care and social support structures. These climate-sensitive health risks are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, including women, children, ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants or displaced persons, older populations, and those with underlying health conditions,” adds WHO.

The National Geographic, in their article titled Why Climate change is still the greatest threat to human health, details that climate change remains the greatest threat to human health, especially as regards air pollution and steadily rising temperatures, which are linked to increased heart attacks and strokes, spread of infectious diseases and psychological trauma.

“Climate change is caused by an increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, mostly from fossil fuel emissions. But burning fossil fuels can also have direct consequences for human health. That’s because the polluted air contains small particles that can induce stroke and heart attacks by penetrating the lungs and heart and even traveling into the bloodstream. Those particles might harm the organs directly or provoke an inflammatory response from the immune system as it tries to fight them off. Estimates suggest that air pollution causes anywhere between 3.6 million and nine million premature deaths a year,” says Nat Geo.

“Air pollution also has consequences for those with allergies. Carbon dioxide increases the acidity of the air, which then pulls more pollen out from plants. For some people, this might just mean that they face annoyingly long bouts of seasonal allergies. For people who already have respiratory disease, pollen gets into the respiratory pathway, the body creates mucus to get rid of it, which can then fill up and suffocate the lungs,” it adds.

Nat Geo also notes that heat waves can result in deaths, by causing breaking down of heart muscles due to the body’s inability to cope with consistent heat. Being under extreme heat for long periods also leads to dehydration.

Climate hazards, have also been blamed for exacerbating Over half of human diseases.

Hazards such as precipitation and floods, drought, storms, natural cover change, ocean cli mate change, fires, heatwaves and change in sea level aggravated diseases by worsening transmission of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.

In their article titled Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet, the IPCC states that the world continues to face unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next 20 years with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Exceeding this level is likely to result in irreversible impacts.

“Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Arctic,” says IPCC.

“To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks,” adds IPCC.

One Earth  also notes that warmer temperatures amplify the risk of insufficient sleep, and is projected to unequally erode sleep, thereby widening global inequalities. Insufficient sleep has been associated with reduced cognitive performance, depression, anger, suicidal behavior, diminished productivity and compromised immune function.

“Increases in nighttime minimum temperature reduce sleep duration and increase the probability of obtaining insufficient sleep via the constriction of the human sleep period, primarily by delaying when people fall asleep. The effect of nighttime temperature on sleep loss is amplified for lower-income countries, older adults, and females. Our results suggest that temperature-driven sleep loss is evident across demographics, and increasing temperatures lead to some within-person sleep loss across all seasons, with the largest losses during the warmest months and on nights when minimum temperatures exceed 10 degrees Celsius,” said One Earth.

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This fact check was produced by Daily Nation with support from Code for Africa’s Pesa Check, International Fact Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance Network.