Climate change will lead to an increase in the intensity and frequency of weather extremes, such as heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones. The people hardest hit by climate change and environmental degradation are those living in the most vulnerable areas, including coastal communities, small island nations, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asian delta regions. It is the poorest of the poor, who lack the resources to prepare, adapt and rebuild, that are most affected.
Environmental degradation can lead to a scarcity of resources, such as water and farmable.
Extreme weather events, such as severe flooding, increase the spread of waterborne diseases, such as malaria and diarrhoea.
The effects of the major environmental problems on both health and productivity are:
a. Water pollution and water scarcity: As per the estimation of UN, more than two million deaths and billions of illnesses a year are attributable to water pollution. Water scarcity compounds these health problems. Productivity is affected by the costs of providing safe water, by constraints on economic activity caused by water shortages, and by the adverse effects of water pollution and shortages on other environmental resources such as, declining fisheries and acquifer depletion leading to irreversible compaction.
b. Air pollution: As per the estimation of UN, urban air pollution is responsible for 300,000—700,000 deaths annually and creates chronic health problems for many more people. Restrictions on vehicles and industrial activity during critical periods affect productivity, as does the effect of acid rain on forests and water bodies.
c. Solid and hazardous wastes: Diseases are spread by uncollected garbage and blocked drains; the health risks from hazardous wastes are typically more localized, but often acute. Wastes affect productivity through the pollution of groundwater resources.
d. Soil degradation: Depleted soils increase the risks of malnutrition for farmers. Productivity losses on tropical soils are estimated to be in the range of 0.5-1.5 per cent of GNP, while secondary productivity losses are due to siltation of reservoirs, transportation channels and other hydrologic investments.
e. Deforestation: Death and disease can result from the localized flooding caused by deforestation. Loss of sustainable logging potential and of erosion prevention, watershed stability and carbon sequestration provided by forests are among the productivity impacts of deforestation.
f. Loss of biodiversity: The extinction of plant and animal species will potentially affect the development of new drugs; it will reduce ecosystem adaptability and lead to the loss of genetic resources.
g. Atmospheric changes: Ozone depletion is responsible for perhaps 300,000 additional cases of skin cancer a year and 1.7 million cases of cataracts. Global warming may lead to increase in the risk of climatic natural disasters. Productivity impacts may include sea-rise damage to coastal investments, regional changes in agricultural productivity and disruption of the marine food chain.
Conclusion: The impact of environmental disasters can be devastating on the social, economic, and environmental systems of a country or region as well as the global ecosystem. Environmental disasters do not recognise man-made borders, and threaten the legacy left to future generations of a clean and supportive environment. Because of the interdependency of earth ecosystems international co-operation is paramount to prevent, and when disaster strikes, respond to relieve quickly and effectively the effects of environmental disasters. Thus, Governments, International organizations and communities must work together – at all levels – to lessen the risks associated with environmental degradation and its contributing factors, such as climate change, and ensure that vulnerable people are prepared to survive and adapt. At the same time, companies, organizations and individuals must also ensure that their work is environmentally friendly and sustainable.