Climate Change Is a Health Emergency We’re Yet to Understand the Full Effects Of

Back in September, the Australian Medical Association declared climate change as a health emergency. Now, with an alarming number of bushfires ravaging the country, it seems that their speculations have been proven true. Not only do the fires pose danger in the immediate moment, threatening homes and lives throughout Australia. The harmful effects of the bushfires might last for years to come. “Doctors say there will be unpredictable and lasting consequences,” The Guardian reports. “Especially for children, the elderly and asthmatics.”

Every day we wake up and see smoke covering the sky, most people are asking themselves just how safe it is to be outside. Chris Moy, chair of the Australian Medical Association’s ethics and medico-legal committee, shared with The Guardian some frightening — though not entirely unexpected — news. “There are people who are going to probably die from these conditions.” 

While those with respiratory issues are more susceptible to medical issues arising from bushfire smoke, the psychological impact for communities throughout the country are similarly damaging for even the healthiest of body. David Caldicott, a consultant emergency physician at Calvary hospital in Canberra, told reporters that we can expect to see an increased level of anxiety due to “not just the smoke but the existential threat of fire.”

“Climate change is an issue like high cholesterol or high blood pressure,” the physician told The Guardian. “We don’t actually have to be on fire to realise the truth.” For now, however, the best we can do is to use common sense and be smart about our exposure. If possible, avoid strenuous activity or exercise outdoors. As smoke can be particularly harmful to children, outdoor playtime should be limited on smoky days. If you have any respiratory issues, make sure to take additional care for the time being.

It’s hard to say what the lasting effects might be, but so far, there has been a higher number of people in affected areas going to the emergency room for respiratory issues. There’s no denying that such factors are a direct result of climate change. In fact, the World Health Association has considered it to be “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” If we care about the future of not only the world’s health but our own as well, it’s necessary that we start taking steps to help our planet and reduce climate change by any means possible.