Dr. Abhishek Mandal, Ph.D.
Senior Business Adviser, Vision Science Academy
Vision Science Academy, London, United Kingdom.
Vision Science Academy Exclusive
The annual climate change conference (COP27) has recently been concluded in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The conference summoned world leaders on the catastrophic challenge of global climate change to highlight the progress made in the preceding months on mitigating the amount of greenhouse gases in the environment. Moreover, thorough countermeasures were also discussed on how to counter climatic adversities. It was subsequently established that developing countries which have been persistently devastated due to climatic disasters shall be financially aided to overcome the loss of infrastructure owing to floods and other calamities. The creation of this “loss and damage” fund has been declared as a major breakthrough in fighting against climate change disasters (COP27 Reaches Breakthrough Agreement on New “Loss and Damage” Fund for Vulnerable Countries, 2022).
Apart from natural disasters, the integrity of human health has also become substantially jeopardized due to progressive global warming. Climate change deteriorates various health determinants e.g., air quality, food hygiene and purity of potable water (Barnes et al., 2019). Additionally, large-scale climatic catastrophes including floods are known to delay hospital accessibility to the public which potentially adds to the loss of human life.
Being vision science professionals, it is our aim to direct attention to how our eyesight is currently being impacted due to an ever-increasing global temperature. In addition to rising temperatures, changes in the pattern of wind, rainfalls and humidity, and ozone depletion can also precipitate a multitude of eye disorders (Echevarría-Lucas et al., 2021). Presently, the developing world suffers from a potential lack of high-standard eye care services. Therefore, it is being speculated that adverse climates threaten to disproportionately affect the poor countries. This is expected to overburden the already fragile eye care infrastructure of the third world nations (Jaggernath et al., 2013).
Amongst the most notorious climate-related eye infections is trachoma. Potential risk factors include poor hygiene and substandard sanitation facilities. In line with this, an inadequate access to clean water due to climate change can drastically potentiate the risk of acquiring trachoma or related eye infections. Moreover, increasing temperatures accompanied by a low precipitation rate also act as a risk hazard towards the pathogenesis of trachoma (Ramesh et al., 2013). A greater degree of exposure to ultraviolet radiations can also predispose individuals to an earlier onset of degenerative conditions such as cataract. Furthermore, extreme changes in weather have also been correlated to other eye conditions including conjunctivitis, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (Johnson, 2004). Interestingly, expert consensus indicates that changing demographics can concomitantly lead to a rising incidence of such ophthalmic diseases in the developed world. Unless adequate measures are undertaken, this can potentially offset the balance of eye care facilities.
The staggering synergistic impact of undermined eye healthcare facilities and a massive climate change can push the economic status of the developing world to the brink of bankruptcy. Considering the ultimate consequences of a crumbling eye health sector secondary to climate change disasters, it is pivotal to provide lasting economic support to the health system of low-income countries. This calls for reshaping their eye care infrastructure so as to tackle a climbing incidence of climate-related ophthalmic illnesses. Therefore, the climate change pacts and provision of “loss and damage” funds must take into account these alarming concerns. In addition, adoption of eco-friendly energy resources can’t be stressed enough. Environmental stability is meant to be the ultimate saviour of our declining ecosystem.
To emphasise on the correlation between eye care and climate change, the key stakeholders of visual health are expected to step in and spread awareness pertinent to the impact of worsening climate on our eyes. Moreover, there is an urgent need to assess the damage which has already been provoked so as to devise countermeasures which shall help address this emerging health crisis.
Barnes, P. W., Williamson, C. E., Lucas, R. M., Robinson, S. A., Madronich, S., Paul, N. D., Bornman, J. F., Bais, A. F., Sulzberger, B., Wilson, S. R., Andrady, A. L., McKenzie, R. L., Neale, P. J., Austin, A. T., Bernhard, G. H., Solomon, K. R., Neale, R. E., Young, P. J., Norval, M., Rhodes, L. E., Hylander, S., Rose, K. C., Longstreth, J., Aucamp, P. J., Ballaré, C. L., Cory, R. M., Flint, S. D., de Gruijl, F. R., Häder, D.-P., Heikkilä, A. M., Jansen, M. A. K., Pandey, K. K., Robson, T. M., Sinclair, C. A., Wängberg, S.-Å., Worrest, R. C., Yazar, S., Young, A. R., & Zepp, R. G. (2019). Ozone depletion, ultraviolet radiation, climate change and prospects for a sustainable future. Nature Sustainability, 2 (7), 569-579. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0314-2
COP27 Reaches Breakthrough Agreement on New “Loss and Damage” Fund for Vulnerable Countries. (2022). United Nations Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/news/cop27-reaches-breakthrough-agreement-on-new-loss-and-damage-fund-for-vulnerable-countries
Echevarría-Lucas, L., Senciales-González, J. M., Medialdea-Hurtado, M. E., & Rodrigo-Comino, J. (2021). Impact of Climate Change on Eye Diseases and Associated Economical Costs. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 18 (13). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18137197
Jaggernath, J., Haslam, D., & Naidoo, K. S. (2013). Climate change: Impact of increased ultraviolet radiation and water changes on eye health. Health, Vol.05No.05, 10, Article 31952. https://doi.org/10.4236/health.2013.55122
Johnson, G. J. (2004). The environment and the eye. Eye, 18 (12), 1235-1250. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.eye.6701369
Ramesh, A., Kovats, S., Haslam, D., Schmidt, E., & Gilbert, C. E. (2013). The impact of climatic risk factors on the prevalence, distribution, and severity of acute and chronic trachoma. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 7 (11), e2513. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0002513