Health and Habitat: A Holistic Approach to Climate Policies for All Earth’s Inhabitants

Our world is, our outright irreplaceable home, sending unmistakable distress calls—forests are ablaze, coral reefs are bleaching, ice fields are shrinking, diseases are proliferating.

Our world is, our outright irreplaceable home, sending unmistakable distress calls—forests are ablaze, coral reefs are bleaching, ice fields are shrinking, diseases are proliferating, and species are migrating unpredictably and unprecedentedly. Are we “really” Prepared to interpret these signs correctly and mobilize a comprehensive response to counter the escalating threat of climate change? Let me present you with a few anecdotes that demonstrate the effects of climate change.

During the evening in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Ajoy, an elderly man, sits next to his fading fire outside his bamboo home. He looks out at the increasing fog that envelops his community. Ranjan, the grandson, sits closely, attentively listening as Ajoy narrates stories of lush forests inundated with abundant wildlife, which are now silent and diminishing owing to the impact of climate change. In close proximity, a herd of Asian elephants, who are being progressively forced out of their original habitat, search for food in closer proximity to human habitats. Their unprecedented presence serves as a poignant reminder of the environmental changes that pose a threat to their existence. Ajoy’s voice quivers, not just due to his old age but also due to a deep worry about the inheritance he will pass on to Ranjan, while both human and animal residents struggle with the harsh truths of a heating world. In a different area of Bangladesh, the previously lively coral reefs that added brilliant colors to the underwater environment are gradually losing their ecological and economical significance. Subsequently, the fish population, which is a source of sustenance for generations and has contributed to the local economies, is diminishing. Perched above the water, fisherman Jasim anxiously surveys the horizon, his nets devoid of any catch, leaving his village famished. Beneath the ocean’s surface, a group of clownfish diligently seeks a dwelling, as their customary coral sanctuaries have been discolored and fractured. The interconnected destiny of Jasim and the clownfish is a clear depiction of mutual survival, linking the well-being of humans to the marine species in a pressing plea for transformation. In the scorching sun of northern Bangladesh, Nazmun diligently tends to her struggling vegetable patch, her brow glistening with perspiration. In close proximity, a cluster of bovines gasp for breath, seeking shelter beneath a meagre, withering tree, both exhibiting indications of anguish due to the relentless heat. The elevated temperatures not only exert pressure on crops and cattle, but also expedite the propagation of lethal vector-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes thrive in the prolonged warm periods, so bringing malaria and dengue fever perilously closer to her hamlet. Hafsa establishes her fruit booth in the busy outskirts of Dhaka, amidst a dense fog that engulfs the morning atmosphere. She experiences coughing as her lungs struggle against the contaminated cloud, while a stray dog in close proximity endures skin conditions worsened by the damp and unsanitary surroundings. Both humans and animals are affected by a worsening environment that amplifies the transmission of diseases and affects conventional farming methods.

The effects of climate change are having a terrifying influence on both human health and biodiversity, posing a serious threat to the stability of the environment and public health systems. It acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying storms, heatwaves, floods, and wildfires, thus increasing mortality rates, non-communicable and infectious diseases, and health emergencies. The IPCC reports that 3.6 billion people reside in vulnerable regions, with extreme weather death rates 15 times higher in these areas than less vulnerable ones. Changes in climate also critically interrupt food systems and increase the spread of lethal diseases, such as vector-borne diseases which already result in over 700,000 deaths yearly. Plus, climate change is critically affecting Earth’s biodiversity, with studies showing that it has altered 77 of 94 ecological processes. This includes genetic, physical, and behavioral changes in species like woodland salamanders, red knot birds, and marmots. Highly significant declines are observed in 47% of land mammals and 23% of birds, with over 450 species experiencing local disappearances. The Great Barrier Reef and other ecosystems face transformations that could lead to less productive systems, and the first mammal extinction owing to climate change, the Bramble Cay melomys, highlights the irreversible impact of rising sea levels. Also, climate change is expected to cause at least 15,000 instances of virus transmission between species over the next 5 decades, enhancing the potential for pandemics similar to COVID-19. Migratory shifts in 3,139 mammal species due to climate and land-use changes augment the risk of disease spread, with bats playing a key role as carriers. The ongoing encroachment of human activity into natural habitats further upsurges the transmission risks, necessitating advanced health infrastructure and global efforts in pandemic prevention and wildlife conservation. This extremely alarming convergence of health, ecological, and climatic challenges necessitates a global response to limit emissions, protect ecosystems, and reinforce health systems against the escalating impacts of climate change.

Abdullah Al-Mamun
Abdullah Al-Mamun
Md. Abdullah-Al-Mamun is an experienced researcher and analyst with specializations in security analysis, public policy, diplomacy, and international politics and economy. He is a skilled writer, known for his insightful editorials, commentaries, and academic discussions. He might be reached abdullahalmamunhbri[at]