Over the past few centuries, there has been an alarming rise in temperatures on Earth, a concept known as global warming. Understanding the meaning of greenhouse gases is critical to gaining insight into global warming and its impacts on human existence. Greenhouse gases are methane, water vapour, carbon dioxide, and ozone that behave like a blanket covering Earth. These gases trap atmospheric energy, leading to a radical increase in climatic temperatures. Since older populations are susceptible to weaker immune systems, factors such as heatwaves, dirty air, acidic water, and other challenges that arise from global warming are bound to cause them significant damage. In this proposal, an evaluation of the impact that entrenched climatic change has had on society, especially on older populations occurs. An examination of the underlying reasons for this occurrence as well as its effects will take place. More critically, an assessment of the solutions necessary to reduce geriatric loss due to global warming occurs.
Human life expectancy increases gradually due to the advancement of medical technologies and societal innovations. Technologies lead to a broad spectrum of global changes, such as an unprecedented increase in human populations. Moreover, they cause higher survival rates for geriatric populations and life expectancies at birth. According to Kanasi et al. (2016), over 11% of the global population comprises people over 60 years of age. The researchers estimate that this population would triple by 2050 due to adequate medical technologies and policies to actualise public health. The increase in life expectancy due to technologies is a positive factor for societal growth. However, increasing technologies also predisposes human beings and animals to global warming, leading to a decline in life expectancy. Therefore, despite the statistics showing a positive correlation between technology and reduced mortality, action is needed to reduce the impacts of technologies and other human activities on the environment, and by default, to themselves.
Causes of Climatic Change and its Impacts on Society
The most significant accelerants of greenhouse gas formation are human activities, including fossil fuel burning, farming, and deforestation. Other activities such as creating power plants, use of fertilisers, transportation, oil drilling, and poor garbage disposal methods also lead to negative climatic change. Thus, these human activities and innovations increase greenhouse gases and cause negative climatic change (global warming). As a result, global warming affects every aspect of human existence and reduces life expectancies. Global warming also disrupts weather by causing wildfires, heatwaves, flooding, and drought. All these disruptions resulting from global warming lead to losses in crops, animals, property, and vulnerable human beings such as the elderly.
Technology is also a human invention that leads to significant global warming. Although it plays a crucial role in population health and reduced mortality rates, technology is also the primary accelerant of global warming and climatic changes. The negative impacts of technologies on climatic changes are equally profound as they are adverse. Industrial revolutions such as the creation of factories, power stations, vehicles, and the burning of fossil fuels have similarly led to merits and demerits to human and animal existence. These industries and cars lead to air, water, land, and noise pollution. Air pollution occurs when factories and vehicles release harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and methane into the atmosphere. These gases can lead to health complications such as respiratory diseases (asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer), nausea, headaches, and ventricular hypertrophy (Ghorani-Azam et al., 2016). Air pollution also causes birth or fetal complications such as autism and stillbirths. Additionally, air pollution exacerbates mental challenges such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Land and water pollution due to technologies also affect human and animal food and water intake by causing diseases such as cholera or typhoid.
As the climate warms, society must prepare for outcomes such as floods, drought, heatwaves, and wildfire. Haq (2017) asserts that the end of the 21st century will be accompanied by a rapid increase in surface temperature from 1.5 degrees Celsius to 2.0 degrees. Such an alarming rise in surface temperatures would, directly and indirectly, impact societies. Hudson (2017) also points out that some populations suffer from climatic changes more than others based on one’s geographical location, health, wealth, lifestyle, occupation, and age. For instance, people working in industries with harmful chemicals such as mercury exposure could suffer from lung, kidney, skin, eyes, and immune system corrosion due to mercury vapour. Similarly, people who reside in cities and industrialised areas are more likely to suffer from pollution from innovations such as fuel vehicles and toxic gases released from factories.
Global warming also causes an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor. Diffenbaugh and Burke (2019) aver that although emerging countries did not participate in the pioneering of global warming, they are the most affected party. Thus, an increase in global warming decreases the GDP in hotter and poorer countries while accelerating economic growth in colder states (Costello et al., 2009). Hence, the instigators of global warming reap all the economic benefits that poorer countries lose.
Specific Vulnerabilities for Older Adults
Although some older adults have social, economic, and health stability, most of this population lacks the resilience necessary to survive global warming and climatic changes. Statistics by Hudson et al. (2017) show that older adults are often more susceptible to natural disasters than younger generations. For instance, the 2003 Paris and 1995 Chicago heatwaves adversely affected numerous geriatrics compared to other populations. Additionally, Hudson et al. (2017) aver that over 70% of the people who succumbed to Hurricane Katrina were older adults. It is critical to analyse the physical reasons why older adults are more vulnerable to climatic changes than other populations. Older adults are more vulnerable due to the natural ageing cycle. Ageing necessitates bone and muscle loss, causing a rapid limitation to mobility. Thus, in natural disasters such as cyclones or hurricanes, older adults would find it more challenging to run for safety.
Secondly, older adults have a higher chance of obtaining chronic diseases due to their weakened immune systems. Most geriatric populations suffer from diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancers, and heart disease conditions. Moreover, climatic changes lead to adverse effects on the mental state of older adults. It leads to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder from disasters, and dissociative disorders. Since older adults also have challenges fending for themselves during times of disaster, they may also struggle with suicidal ideations and feelings of uselessness. Lastly, older adults are more vulnerable as their bodies are more sensitive to environmental changes. Therefore, exposure to infectious agents and toxins is detrimental to their health, and in extreme events, may lead to premature deaths.
Inequalities between Older People and Other Socio-demographic Groups
Ageism and Discrimination
Ageism is the discrimination society imposes on a group of people based on their age. Senior communities and older adults often suffer from ageism in different spectrums of life. Despite having more knowledge, experience, and wisdom, the older community is often overlooked when dealing with societal challenges. For instance, dealing with climatic change is a global challenge that requires input from people with different skill sets. Nonetheless, older populations have little to no say in eradicating harmful behaviours that affect the environment.
Older populations also face discrimination in some healthcare facilities. According to Chang et al. (2020), some healthcare professionals may have preferential or biased treatment for younger patients, believing that the older generation has lived enough. Such a challenge in receiving healthcare also affects minority groups such as African Americans and Latinos. Chang et al. (2020) aver that some providers stereotype African Americans as stronger and can thus, ‘take the pain’ or do without treatment. Thus, some providers may discriminate against these groups in natural disasters in favour of whites or younger populations.
Role of Older Adults in Climate Change
Older adults have a significant advantage over younger populations in addressing climatic change. Span (2019) contends that since older populations have been there for a longer duration to watch and face climatic changes, they are more knowledgeable on the topic. For instance, between 1970 and 2000, the mean winter temperature climbed by 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, the people born at this time witnessed the growing heat during summers. Thus, older adults have more expertise in dealing with climatic degradation.
However, despite their expertise, older adults may be among the highest contributors to climatic degradation. A study by Span (2019) shows that residential energy consumption rises with age. Therefore, the older one gets the more energy they consumers. This hypothesis proves true since younger people often live in smaller households that require minimal energy. As one grows, their responsibilities and leisure increase. For example, one forms a family and has children who require more energy consumption. Even after retirement, older populations require more energy for needs such as air conditioning and heating systems. Excessive energy consumption leads to resource depletion, global warming, and climatic degradation.
Role of Older Adults in Preventing Climatic Change
As stated, older populations have more experience in climatic changes than their counterparts. Additionally, different cultures reverse older persons as those with wisdom and knowledge. Thus, Bushway et al. (2011) aver that encouraging older adult volunteerism is crucial in eradicating or reducing global warming. Bush way et al. (2011) argues that since the older population globally would have doubled by 2025, they would need powerful ammunition against the effects of climatic change. Additionally, engaging older adults in initiatives to reduce climatic change would aid in getting solutions from an experienced point of view.
Encouraging older adult volunteerism in environmental projects also reduces their liability to sedentary lives. Sedentary behaviours increase an older person’s risk for illnesses such as diabetes, increased mortality and morbidity, and other chronic diseases. Also, giving older adults a sense of belonging and purpose in caring for their environments reduces suicide ideations, self-loathing due to old age, depression, or anxiety (Frumkin, 2012). Bushway et al. (2011) also contend that encouraging older adult engagement in environmental care reduces their stress levels and increases their quality of life. Older generations also have an opportunity to educate their children and grandchildren on the essence of environmental care. Older people have a wealth of knowledge about the beauty of natural resources and greener environments (Jones, 2020). Thus, they have a better chance at guiding younger generations on how to regain such an environment and society.
Role of Governmental/Non-governmental Organisations
Additionally, the Doha Declaration on Climate, Health, and Wellbeing (2021) states that governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) must analyse all the effects of global warming to create a well-evaluated mitigation plan. For instance, fuel vehicles play a crucial role in increasing air pollution. Hence, states must rethink these vehicles and switch them with electric designs or bicycles for travel. Additionally, they can encourage the use of public travel means to reduce air pollution from private cars. Thus, creating policies that encourage society to limit their energy consumption and resource use would reduce climatic change. NGOs can also play advocacy roles by lobbying for older adults’ right to eradicate global warming. They also have significant societal influence and, thus, must guide people into making climate and environmental-friendly choices. Further, NGOs can fight for older adults to receive treatment in healthcare facilities, especially after climatic disasters. By creating policies that protect the vulnerable and marginalised communities from discrimination in societal settings, the world would be one step closer to reducing the impact of global warming on life expectancies.
Global warming and climatic changes have caused a significant impact on daily lives worldwide, especially on the lives of older adults. Caused by human activities such as the invention of industrial technologies, climatic changes spread rapidly, leading to an increase in mortality rates among vulnerable communities such as older persons. Older adults have the power and opportunity to eradicate global warming through volunteerism, educating younger people, and reducing their energy consumption. With the help of governmental policies and NGO initiatives, older populations can eradicate or reduce climatic change significantly, leading to a higher quality of life.
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