Climate change has been described as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, have increased significantly since the start of the Industrial Era around 1750, with much of this increase occurring over just the last 50 years or so. This is resulting in warming of the climate system as well as changes in precipitation and weather and climate extremes. These changes in climate are having wide-ranging impacts on the Earth’s physical, biological and human systems, including human health. It is these impacts of climate change on human health that are the focus of this paper, particularly the impacts on allergens and allergic diseases. Such impacts are particularly significant in many countries where the prevalence of such diseases is high and/or increasing. There is now compelling evidence that rising air temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations are, in some plant species, resulting in increased pollen production and allergenicity and advancement and lengthening of the pollen season. Changes in extreme events, such as thunderstorms and tropical cyclones, will also have impacts on allergic diseases, with, for example, the flooding associated with tropical cyclones leading to proliferation of mould growth in damp homes. The article also considers a range of responses to these health threats, including greenhouse gas mitigation, and adaptation strategies, such as enhanced environmental monitoring and health surveillance and adequate planning for the future medical workforce.
- food hypersensitivity