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How will global climate change affect health?
Temperature increases caused by climate change could become a growing health hazard in the future and even take the lives of many people. The main reason for this is the associated moisture. A combination of high humidity and heat could pose a life-threatening threat to people in certain parts of the world.
In their research, Columbia University researchers found that temperature increases due to climate change could pose a fatal threat to people in certain parts of the world. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Environmental Research Letters".
Some areas of the world are particularly hard hit
In the future, global climate change will lead to increasing temperatures and high humidity. Some parts of the world are particularly hard hit by the effects. These areas include, for example, the southeastern United States, the Amazon, West and Central Africa, the southern areas of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, northern India and eastern China.
Climate change leads to economic damage and health problems
The combination of heat and high humidity in these regions could make it impossible for people to work there. In particularly bad cases, these effects could even be life-threatening. In addition to the health-damaging factors, major economic damage also occurs, the researchers explain.
Even before the end of the century, people will suffer greatly from climate change
"The conditions we're talking about basically never happen and most people have never had to go through them," said author Ethan Coffel of Columbia University's Earth Observatory in a press release. But such conditions are likely to increase as early as the end of the century, the expert adds.
At what temperature and humidity does it become difficult to work outdoors?
The scientists used global climate models for their investigation. With the help of these models, the researchers then created maps that reflect the combined effects of heat and moisture. Experiments in the laboratory also showed that a so-called wet temperature of 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the threshold above which many people find it difficult to carry out their normal outdoor activities. Such a level is rarely reached today. In the United States, however, this threshold will already be reached one or two days a year in the 2070s or 2080s. In parts of South America, Africa, India and China, the threshold is even reached three to five days a year.
Why is high humidity such a big problem for the human body?
The effects on human health depend on both temperature and humidity, the authors say. The human body can efficiently give off heat by sweating even at high air temperatures when the humidity is low. In hot and humid conditions, however, the efficiency of sweating slows down. For this reason, the body may not be able to maintain a stable core temperature, the study authors explain.
What is heat stress?
If the core temperature is not stable and it is much too hot, this can lead to heat stress. So-called heat stress can occur when people are exposed to extreme heat and the body cannot cool itself properly. Heat stress can lead to heat stroke, heat outbreaks, heat cramps or heat rashes.
Certain factors affect the problem
It's not just about the heat or the number of people affected. It is also important how many people are poor, how many are older, how many people have to work outdoors and how many people have air conditioning, explains the author Alex deSherbinin from the Columbia Center for International Earth Science Information Network. (as)