Emily Mediate '15 was an International Scholar and International Development Studies minor during her time at Notre Dame. She traveled to Uganda on a Kellogg-sponsored internship in 2013 and a Kellogg/Kroc Research Grant in 2014, and after graduation received Kellogg funding to work for a year with the Association of Volunteers in International Service, also in Uganda. She received a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in 2016-18, where she earned an MSc and MPP in Global Governance & Diplomacy and Public Policy. Currently, Mediate is Chief of Staff for the American Flood Coalition in Washington, DC. She shares a reflection below on what concerns her today.
I’m concerned about the impact of climate change, which many public health experts say is the biggest global health problem today. In addition to its direct health impacts, such as death and injury during floods and storms, climate change increases the spread of disease vectors, air pollution, and water pollution, and contributes to migration and food insecurity. Climate change is a significant barrier to human development because it threatens the health of communities around the world.
For example, climate change has caused an escalation in the spread of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease primarily found in South America, Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia. As climate change brings warmer and wetter days, mosquito habitats are more prolific and mosquito seasons are longer. The spread of infectious diseases – such as dengue fever – will increase as a result of climate change, worsening health outcomes and hampering human development.
According to the World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause around 250,000 additional deaths per year resulting from malaria, diarrhea, heat stress and malnutrition. Most of the illness and mortality burden will be borne in developing countries where health infrastructure is weak and emergency management is often absent.
To avoid the ill health effects of these environmental changes, we must mitigate climate change and undertake significant action. While this may seem like a monumental task, I have good news. Climate adaptation strategies, especially if adopted early, have the potential to improve global health. By addressing climate change, we can clean up the air and water around us, create more walkable and bikeable cities, and protect health and equity by building resilient communities. I am optimistic that my colleagues in global health and environmental justice will fight for regulations and policies that promote public health, development, and equity as we work to reduce climate impacts.