The State of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services has issued a major report on the expected adverse health impacts of climate change on Alaska.
Spoiler alert: It’s all bad news.
In fact, in the 70-page report on how depressed, sick, and wasted Alaskans are likely to become in a warming climate, the report spends a scant 82 words wondering whether a warming climate has any benefits at all to humans living in the north:
“Finally, while this assessment is focused on the potential adverse health impacts of climate change in Alaska, it is important to note that there will likely be some beneficial health impacts of climate change in Alaska as well. For example, warmer temperatures might be more conducive to a longer growing season and growing a wider range of agricultural crops, resulting in increased food security in some areas. Warmer winter temperatures might also lead to fewer injuries and fatalities related to cold temperatures.”
Other than that, it’s all pretty dire:
People will get sicker. The health care infrastructure will be strained and may collapse. Alaskans won’t have access to comprehensive care, there will be fewer health care clinics and less emergency service capability.
Melting permafrost will lead to increased rates of obesity and diabetes because of less access to local foods.
People will experience more heart disease, more allergies, asthma and respiratory diseases. People will suffer from more waterborne diseases, like West Nile virus and Lyme disease, and even rabies will increase. They will be bitten by foxes more.
There will be more wildfires, so people will get burned more, the report says.
And people will be depressed. The study cites “Increased cases of stress disorders, anxiety, depression and increased rates of “maladaptive” coping, e.g., increased substance/drug (including alcohol) use.
SOLASTALGIA HEALTH ALERT
Among the strategies the State suggests using to help people cope are raising awareness about a condition it identifies as solastalgia (the distressing sense of loss that people experience as a result of unwanted environmental changes that occur close to one’s home).
Solastalgia is a new condition — and a made-up word to match — for a certain kind of anxiety and depression. Think of it in the same way that “Spanx” is a new word for “girdle.”
The neo-word “solastalgia” describes “psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change. It was coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2003, with the basis being the Latin word for comfort (sōlācium) and the Greek root for pain, (algae.)
The State of Alaska study says Alaska should promote strategies that “mediate public risk perceptions, psychological and social impacts, coping responses, and behavioral adaptation,” and “implement community-based strategies to promote mental health and wellbeing,” along with other community-based behavioral health programs that aim to prevent anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicide, and violence.
Other pages are devoted to charts and graphs, as well as descriptions of the many ways Alaskans will fare far worse under a climate that continues to warm.
Avalanches, for instance. There will be a lot more avalanche deaths.
We are not making this up. We promise. The entire report can be found here.