Climate change is increasing the frequency of flooding, wildfires, drought, heat waves, cold waves, and heavy snows. Extreme weather events like these can result in injury, illness, and death. Health risks can occur during an event and also in the processes of disaster preparation and cleanup.
Extreme events often disrupt power, water supply, transportation, and communication systems, making it difficult to maintain medical access and emergency response services. (Read the Blackfeet Emergency Operations Plan here.) Extreme events like heavy snow can trigger cascading failure (when one failure triggers another failure which triggers another failure, and so on). For example, heavy snow might cause power outages, making it difficult for people to stay warm, and it might also slow or block vehicle travel, making it hard to reach people who lost heat, which could then trigger medical emergencies.
Extreme events like flooding can contaminate food and water supplies with chemicals (e.g. PCBs, fire retardants, pesticides, herbicides), heavy metals (e.g. mercury and cadmium), and pharmaceuticals (e.g. synthetic hormones, antibiotics).
Impacts to mental health from extreme events can include stress, grief, and a sense of loss, as well as clinical disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since there are a wide variety of extreme events that can occur, vulnerable populations will vary. However, people living in poverty are at higher risk, as are people suffering from illness, who may require medication that becomes inaccessible in an emergency. People who are socially isolated are also at risk, especially if they are dependent on others for assistance with relocating or responding to an emergency situation.
How can we adapt?
Next, learn about Food Security and Climate Change.
Or, learn about climate change as a health opportunity.
Some of the content found on this page is summarized from the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s report, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States“, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ “A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change“, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s “When Every Drop Counts” to briefly describe some of the possible health outcomes that are most relevant to Blackfeet Country. This page does not include all possible health impacts and outcomes, nor does it include all possible risks and responses.