With its extensive infrastructure and resources, the West is better placed to withstand climate change – but it will not escape unscathed
Rich countries can take steps to prepare for climate change, and their health systems are better equipped to respond to new challenges, such as:
- more heat-waves and heat-related illness
- more respiratory conditions (due to allergens such as pollen, as higher carbon dioxide levels accelerate plant growth)
- the impact of extreme weather – flooding or severe storms
- new or more cases of infectious diseases: Lyme disease may become more common, and more Salmonella and other intestinal infections are likely (it is unlikely, however, that ‘tropical’ diseases such as malaria will pose a big problem in the UK)
- skin cancers may increase (if people spend more time outside).
The impacts of climate change may not always be obvious. For example, the incidence of kidney stones is expected to increase – research in the USA has identified a link between temperature and a ‘kidney stone belt’ in southern states. Thanks to greater dehydration, a risk factor for kidney-stone disease, higher temperatures will cause an additional 1.6 million to 2.2 million kidney stone cases in the USA by 2050.
Economically, countries will need to devote resources to preparing for climate change and taking steps to minimise its impact. In the UK £17.2m is spent by the government annually on preparations for climate change.Lead image:
Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images CC BY NC ND