Climate change a NZ health issue - report

  • 26/10/2017

New Zealanders have been told that climate change will have an impact on their health, both directly through weather events and indirectly with challenges to mental health.

It is also likely to exacerbate socio-economic and ethnic health inequalities, according to a report from Royal Society Te Aparangi.

"If we think of the basic building blocks of health, such as our shelter, the air we breathe, water we drink and the food we eat, all will be affected by climate change," society president Professor Richard Bedford said.

He said New Zealand could expect:

  • More particulates and pollen causing increased respiratory problems,
  • Contamination of drinking water supplies and increased toxic algal blooms,
  • Increased food spoilage or crop failures.

There could also be social and mental disruption if people had to relocate and repeated stresses could take a toll on mental health.

Prof Bedford said the risks could be reduced with action to combat climate change and by preparing for adverse effects.

The report, Human Health Impacts of Climate Change for New Zealand, is the third in the society's series on global warming.

Contributor Professor Alistair Woodward, from Auckland University, said an increase in drought was one issue that would have a big impact.

He said it would put plenty of pressure on the rural economy.

"We know that there is a relationship between the rural economy, the welfare of the people working in the rural economy, and the frequency of mental health problems," he said.

"All kinds of health issues are related to communities under stress and that's something we've got to anticipate and prepare for."

Climate and Health Council co-convenor Rhys Jones says as temperature increases it affects our mental health.

"The people who already have the poorest health outcomes and are already disadvantaged will be hit the earliest," he says.

"If we can do things like investing in active transport, create healthy and energy efficient housing and move to plant-based diets, they also have huge positive spinoffs for health and wellbeing."

NZN / Newshub.