The Earth is our home. A home is meant to be looked after and protected. Yet the Earth is not. We pollute it with harmful gases. Waste is dumped into the sea, killing countless innocent organisms, who fall victim to our actions. Trees are cut down at an alarming rate, the very organisms providing us with oxygen to breath. It is our duty as humans to care and protect it the Earth. We need to protect it for not only ourselves but for future generations. If we continue to mistreat this planet, eventually there will be nothing left to call home.
Global warming and climate change are already having a significant and costly effect on our communities and health. These effects will only continue to intensify unless we all take immediate action and improve the way in which we treat the planet.
The impacts of climate change include rising seas, changes in precipitation, higher temperatures and increases in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events. When it comes to heat waves and coastal flooding, the scientific evidence is clear – these extreme weather events are being caused by human-caused scientific events. Other forms of severe weather are also closely linked to climate change, this includes rises in extreme precipitation events in some regions and increasingly severe droughts in others.  
The weather we experience, the food we consume, the water we drink and the air in which we breathe, are all affected by climate change, threatening our health. 
Climate change is providing longer and hotter summers.This may seem like a great thing but extreme heat can lead to heat stroke and dehydration as well as cardiovascular and respiratory problems. In extreme cases, elevated temperatures can kill, as the body is pushed beyond its limits. 
Extreme rainfall and flooding continue to rise in regions with rain or snow, negatively impacting the conditions people are living in. Extreme weather events such as flooding and drought can create challenges for the growth of food.  This can leave people without a source of income and/or hungry.
Changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme events increase the geographic range of diseases spread by vectors, such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. This can also lead to the occurrence of illnesses earlier in the year. 
Climate change increases the risk of water-related illness due to increases temperature, more frequent heavy rains and the effects of storms. Gastrointestinal illness like diarrhoea, effects on the body’s nervous and respiratory systems, or liver and kidney damage can occur due to the consumption of unsafe water. Climate impacts can affect exposure to waterborne pathogens. Flooding resulting from increases in extreme precipitation may contaminate bodies of water such as beaches, lakes and sources of drinking water. 
The quality of the air in which we breathe is decreasing as it becomes more polluted. This can lead to asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Wildfires, which are increasing in both intensity and frequency, also create harmful air pollutants, which further decreases the quality of air. 
The effects of climate change are slowly but surely destroying the planet. And as the planet deteriorates, so does our health. This is due to climate change affecting human health in two main ways: first, by changing the severity and frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate factors; and second, by creating unprecedented health problems or threats in places or times of the year where they have not previously occurred. 
Some populations are especially vulnerable to climate health risks due to sensitivities, high likelihood of exposure, low adaptive capacity, or combinations of these factors. People in society who are more likely to be at risk from the effects of climate change are the elderly children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. 
People living in developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change’s effects, compared to those living in wealthier countries. This is because they do not have the resources to properly prepare themselves for extreme weather conditions or rebuild their communities after the occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes. This is highly unfair considering that most pollution is created by these wealthier countries but people in developing countries experience climate change’s effects more heavily.
It doesn’t take much for you to help the planet. Little things like recycling more, having quicker showers and switching off light switches when you leave a room can help. If we all do a little bit to save the planet, it will mean a lot. But if we do nothing and continue to disrespect our planet, our future on Earth is at risk.
By Bernice Mangundu.