The disturbing link between climate change and fitness


For years, researchers have spent time and resources determining whether today’s scorching heat waves could have occurred in a pre-industrial climate – a period defined as before 1900, and sometimes as far back as 1720 to 1800.

Recently, science decided that was a colossal waste of time. There are zero fortunate that the planet experiences such frequent and intense heat waves without anthropogenic climate change. “[It’s] an obsolete question,” the authors of a study published last month in Climate change wrote. “The next frontier for attribution science is to inform adaptation decision-making in the face of unprecedented future heat.”

We’ve reached a point where you can type “heatwave” into Google News any time of the year and find tons of headlines. If it’s not record temperatures in the heart of the United States, it’s bushfires in Australia or a severe drought in India. Just for the past 24 hours: “Bordeaux region bans outdoor events as heat wave hits France”, “Thousands of cattle died due to heat wave in Kansas”, “They are “cooked” : Baby Swifts Die Leaving Their Nests as Heatwave Hits Spain

This is usually how heat waves are presented to the public – by their impact on events and animals. We will hear of this year’s Olympics or World Cup being the hottest ever, or of an ecosystem ravaged by the grip of a dry summer. But the headlines never seem to stick. Remember when three billion australian animals were killed or injured in the fires two years ago?

In the years to come, the severity of this crisis is more likely to be felt, as we begin to address the horrific toll extreme heat is having on ordinary people, not just marathon runners or koalas.

Climatologists have shifted their attention from the past to the future and are trying to identify the physiological the balance sheet of a planet that continues to warm. When bodies are subjected to daily heat stress – and especially those in the hottest regions of the world, where 88% of people have no access to air conditioning – they break down. Heat stress, according to recent sets of experiments, overwhelms the body’s default cooling system; in other words“our body absorbs heat from the environment faster than we can sweat to cool ourselves.”

Heat sickness attacks our vital organs (erodes the heart and kidneys), our weaknesses (worsening of high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis) and our will to live (worsening of anxiety and depression). It is especially cruel for young and old, who alternately grow up malnourished or suffer alone in stifling homes. The simple truth is this: as the planet’s temperatures warm, our core temperatures also rise. Every year from now on will reach a level of heat we once thought impossible.

What can we do about it? Expanding access to air conditioning is essential – and it must be done in a renewable framework that not release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Researchers are also advocating for cheaper electric fans, green roofs, low-e glass windows, expanded access to clean water, dedicated water breaks (crucial for laborers and farmers), and heat-resistant clothing. regulated temperature.

Given thousands of years, humans could probably evolve and acclimate to a boiling planet. But we don’t have that kind of time. It’s time to accept that heat waves are no longer just an oddity or an upsetting headline. They are our new normal and will have a deadly impact on human health if we don’t adapt accordingly.


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