The effects of global warming reach farther than many of us even realize. The slowly rising temperature of the earth’s atmosphere contributes to increased natural disasters, unnatural weather patterns and, as of the release of recent research, poorer states of mental health. Read on to learn more about the impact of climate change on your mental health today and in future generations.
Climate change refers to many variations in the environment, but it mostly means temperatures are rising. Due to increased industrialization and the resulting pollution, so-called “greenhouse gases” have amassed in the atmosphere. They’re holding in heat and slowly causing the temperature of the earth to rise. These rising temps trigger other environmental issues — many of them, in fact.
Changing Weather Patterns
Climate change doesn’t just mean hotter summers. The build-up of greenhouse gases also changes the clouds — or rather, the stuff falling out of them. Over the past 100 years, the amount of rain falling across the U.S. has deviated from the projected change. While some parts are saturated with too much rain, others yearn for water to hydrate their fields. Current predictions say this problem is only going to get worse as pollution and other eco-unfriendly practices continue to gain momentum.
Not only does this variation in rain patterns make the world a less pleasant place to live, it also directly affects the prevalence of droughts. According to NASA, parts of the U.S. that currently experience heat waves and droughts are heading toward more intense incarnations of these existing weather issues, while cold fronts are on the decline. Consider how this could impact agriculture in the many parts of the country that the rest of the nation — and even the world — depend on for sustenance.
A Spike in Natural Disasters
The earth has already been warming up for hundreds of years, but things seemed to speed up in the 1980s — this was when the intensity and frequency of hurricanes first spiked. Over the past 30 or 40 years, the earth has seen more Category four and five hurricanes than ever before. Although it’s unclear exactly how much global warming has contributed to this problem, what is clear is that it’s not stopping anytime soon. NASA predicts more hurricanes with increased intensity in our future.
In more troubling news, the rising of the tides could complicate the problem. Since the first time the sea level was accurately recorded back in 1880, it’s climbed by about eight inches. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, brace yourself for this next fact — by 2100, it could rise another one to four feet. Think about how these fuller seas could contribute to more destructive storms, flooding and a steady decrease in the globe’s acreage of livable land.
The Earth-Mind Connection
With Mother Earth in such turmoil, it’s no wonder why the overall mental health status in humans is also starting to shift. In the wake of major natural disasters, those affected tend to experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, for example, suicides in Louisiana doubled, nearly half of the local residents were hit with anxiety or mood disorders and PTSD affected one in six people.
A similar pattern evolved after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast. About 14 percent of the people who lived through the horror of Hurricane Sandy were diagnosed with PTSD. On the west coast, nearly 16 percent of people affected by wildfires also suffered from PTSD in the wake of the natural disaster.
A Vicious Social Cycle
People who are mentally unhealthy cope in a variety of ways. Some turn to drugs and alcohol for relief. Have you ever thought about how the production and disposal of drugs and alcohol further strain the environment? Because they do. This, essentially, creates a vicious cycle where we are dumping, and then becoming affected by what we dump, and then contributing to further dumping through our coping mechanisms.
With climate change touching so many parts of the human experience, it’s obvious that global warming is more than just an environmental issue — it’s also a social, agricultural and mental health issue. Unless the world’s leaders take major steps to reverse the trajectory of climate change, the environmental problems will only continue to grow and web out into other parts of life.