In May 2020, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a record high. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and the rise in levels is most closely associated with human activity. Fossil fuel production, transportation and industrial agriculture are the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
The impact of carbon dioxide on human health is complex. Greenhouse gas production influences us directly, like air pollution, and indirectly, like food production. By understanding how carbon dioxide affects us, we can find a solution to control its rising levels.
When discussing carbon dioxide in this article, we will focus on the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Of course, refrigeration systems and carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide, but for this article, we will focus on how greenhouse gas emissions impact human health. The three main ways that rising carbon dioxide influences human health include pollution, extreme weather conditions and food production.
Perhaps the most common association we have with carbon dioxide is air pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions decrease air quality, which can contribute to respiratory disease and a weakened immune system. Industry emissions from fossil fuel generation, textile manufacturing and transportation are just some of the ways that carbon dioxide influences our daily life.
However, air pollution is found indoors as well. Studies show that the average American spends 93% of their life inside. Indoor air quality has decreased in the past decades, with more people keeping their windows shut and incorporating textiles and cleaning products that diminish healthy air.
Testing indoor air quality is especially essential for businesses that require high levels of indoor activity. When talking about air pollution, it is vital to keep in mind that even if you live in a relatively clean area, you are still impacted by air pollution. High levels of carbon dioxide can cause headaches, increases in blood pressure, sweating and cognitive impairment. Rising carbon dioxide levels are shown to contribute to chronic health diseases such as asthma and can weaken our overall immune health.
We often associate greenhouse gas emissions with videos of dirty power plants, smog-covered cities and foggy skies. But carbon dioxide affects us in a multitude of ways. We don’t often realize how changing levels in the atmosphere affect our everyday life, from an unseasonably warm day to a polar vortex. Rising carbon dioxide levels result in changes in weather patterns.
Volatile weather conditions and unpredictable extreme weather events can lead to a prevalence of warm-weather diseases and pests. With regions around the world experiencing record-high warm spells, scientists are worried about an increase in disease-carrying insects, especially ticks and mosquitoes.
While we can prepare for some natural disasters, many of the changes that come with a warming climate are still unknown. With carbon dioxide levels rising, many of the future impacts remain a mystery. Proactively fighting rising emission levels may slow the eventual impact on human health, although the extent of this impact remains unknown.
We rely on the environment for survival, yet agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. While it may be nice to romanticize the small American farm, many farms today are industrialized and the majority of calories per acre go towards processed food, leading to less-healthy lifestyles.
This method of agriculture contributes to food distribution issues, but it also leads to health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Modern agriculture relies on the fossil fuel industry to churn out acres of soy and corn for animal production. Still, it’s leaving many human populations with not enough healthy food in their diets.
The current agriculture system contributes to our health through production, but it also leads to unstable economic systems. Rising carbon dioxide levels are making it more difficult to control the growing environment, with wildfires and droughts becoming more common.
Farming, even in this modern form, ultimately relies on weather and climate conditions to produce food. With the weather looking more unpredictable in the face of climate change, carbon dioxide levels contribute to possible food shortages and unsustainable economies.
A Solutions-Oriented Approach
The effects of carbon dioxide on human health are multifaceted, and the problems can seem enormous. With levels rising despite efforts to curb climate change, how can we possibly alter the projected rate of emissions in the next few years? For the average person, this information about air pollution, extreme weather and food supply can seem daunting.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of encouraging news to go around — and it’s always important to take these statistics with a grain of salt. Carbon dioxide levels were the highest in recorded history this past month. Additionally, every year, for the past two years, has been the hottest year on record. However, carbon dioxide levels are always highest in May. This statistic is because, in the northern hemisphere, which accounts for the most arable land in the world, plants are not yet photosynthesizing.
Global levels ebb and flow with the weather, meaning efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions are not going to waste. Understanding the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on human health is of the utmost importance in the face of climate catastrophe. These facts and figures are not just fun science information — they are real events that will change human history.
Rising carbon dioxide levels have an impact on humans in a social, economic and biological capacity. The effect of emissions on human health is multifaceted, from direct contact to its influence on our food supply. Combatting rising carbon dioxide levels is about more than just committing to a greener future. It is a necessity to curtail the effects of climate change on human physiology, including chronic disease and immunity problems.
With more people struggling with inflammation due to unhealthy lifestyles and chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, understanding the connection between these problems and carbon dioxide emissions is crucial. To find a sustainable solution, we first need to look at the many ways in which rising emissions impact humanity.