Source: Stuff, 12 January 2018
Climate change may be an environmental crisis but the
havoc it will play on human life could also be hefty.
By 2030, it is predicted 250,000 more people across the world
will die from causes such as heat exposure, diarrhoea
and malaria while 500,000 more deaths will be
linked to a reduction in the global food supply.
For New Zealand, a warmer climate will result in allergies
becoming more common, and their symptoms worse, the
reliability of drinking water coming into question, melanoma rates
increasing along with the prevalence of mosquito-borne
report from the Royal Society said the mental health of
New Zealanders could also come under strain as they face off
against more frequent extreme weather events,
including flooding and fires.
Dr Jonathan Jarman, medical officer of health for Taranaki
District Health Board (TDHB) said there was "no doubt" the climate
was changing but he believed the region had
enough time to adapt.
"However it may be a different story in other parts of New
Zealand. Prolonged droughts for example will have an impact
on the national economy which will ultimately affect everyone," he
That's not to say Taranaki is not immune from the effects of
prolonged hot and dry weather.
On December 23,
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor declared a
drought in parts of the North Island
including Taranaki, Wellington and
When Jarman was asked about whether health complaints
were likely to increase in Taranaki, he said it was hard to
predict but he did not foresee "any big direct health changes for
us in the near or medium future."
He said Taranaki's west coast maritime climate will hopefully
protect the region's residents from ailments like
heat related disorders.
"Our summer and winter temperatures, if they increase, are going
to be like Auckland or Kaitaia so I don't really think that there
will be an explosion in infectious diseases. However, nasty
exotic mosquitoes are more likely to become established up north
but probably won't like our Taranaki climate."
Jarman said district councils would have some "big
challenges" in the future relating to infrastructure, some of
which will be caused by the effects of climate change.
But he would not include Taranaki's drinking water supplies on
this list, as he had no specific concerns that they would be
One section of the population which is likely to bear the brunt
most was its least privileged, he said.
"Poor people are always the shock absorber when things go
bad in the economy or the climate. It is much better for
everyone if we can reduce the gaps between the rich and the
poor. This is the main issue to consider when looking at
advanced planning around health challenges associated with climate
Jarman said one of the ironies of the climate change
issue was that what was often best for the
planet also benefited human health.
"These are called co-benefits. Bikeable and walkable
communities reduce carbon emissions and are healthier, offering
less pollution, less congestion and healthier more active people.
Plant based diets have less carbon footprint than meat diets
and are also better for health," he said.