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No longer a distant threat, climate change is now directly affecting your health. Its effects are likely to worsen over time. Climate change is responsible for higher average temperatures and more frequent heat waves. Called “a silent killer,” excessive heat causes more deaths in the US than all other weather events combined. Hotter, drier conditions are also causing longer wildfire seasons and worse wildfires. Catastrophic fires displace people from their homes, while smoke from wildfires worsens air pollution and causes breathing problems. Meanwhile, warmer ocean temperatures and increased sea levels have increased the severity of hurricanes and tropical storms, which are associated with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders in addition to causing physical damage. Moreover, rising carbon dioxide concentrations are changing the distribution of disease-carrying parasites, increasing the chances that infectious diseases like malaria and dengue will spread. These are just some of the ways that climate change affects your health.
- The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change (2019)
- How climate change affects your health: infographics – American Public Health Association (APHA)
- Heat-related illness: how to recognize the signs and offer first aid – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Wildfires, climate change, and health – Public Health Institute
- Climate change’s toll on mental health – American Psychological Association (APA)
Some groups face a disproportionately high risk of adverse health effects resulting from climate change. The level of a person’s exposure to climate impacts is determined by a range of factors, including one’s occupation, socioeconomic status, time spent in risk-prone locations, and a number of mental or behavioral factors. Systemic power imbalances exist in our society, resulting in Black, indigenous, and other people of color experiencing worse health outcomes on average than white people. Many of the same factors that contribute to the exposure of these populations to climate stressors also reduce their ability to prepare for and cope with the effects of climate change, both in the short- and long-term.
- Climate change, health, and equity – American Public Health Association (APHA)
- Populations of Concern (Climate and Health Assessment) – US Global Change Research Program
- Climate change and environmental injustice – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
- Low-income communities disproportionally affected by health problems associated with fossil fuels – Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
- Factors that can affect your ability to cope with the impacts of climate change – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Racism increases vulnerability to health impacts of climate change – California Department of Public Health
Climate change is costly. A study of just six climate change-related events that struck the United States between 2000 and 2009 accounted for more than $14 billion in lost lives and health care costs. And in addition to costing lives and health, climate change poses the most serious threat to our economy. Without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, economic losses resulting from climate change are expected to exceed the gross domestic product (GDP) of many US states by the end of the century. Globally, the World Bank estimates that without climate-resilient development, climate change could force 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.
- Ten facts about the economics of climate change and climate policy – Brookings
- Annual losses in some economic sectors to grow to hundreds of billions of dollars – Fourth National Climate Assessment
- Shock waves: managing the impacts of climate change on poverty – World Bank
- Study: Six Climate Change–Related Events In The United States Accounted For About $14 Billion In Lost Lives And Health Costs – free access article, Health Affairs
- Mitigation and adaptation – NASA Global Climate Change
- Integrating public health into climate change policy and planning – article, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
- Strategic locating of refuges for extreme heat events – article, Urban Climate
- Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation policies in the transport sector – article, Nature Climate Change
- C40 Cities: Programs
We know that the health risks associated with climate change are amplified for vulnerable populations. Reducing exposure to climate change stressors by improving housing or increasing access to preventive health services can make an outsize impact for those who are at greatest risk. Unfortunately, the proportion of the population that is vulnerable to climate change impacts will only grow in the coming decades. As we build more resilient infrastructure and expand our adaptive capacity, we must prioritize our most vulnerable populations so we can reduce health disparities and promote climate justice.
- Climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
- Climate change and the public’s health – Trust for America’s Health
- Climate change, human rights, and social justice – article, Annals of Global Health
- Climate and health: a guide to cross sector collaboration – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Climate change: the public health response – article, American Journal of Public Health
- Community based adaptation to climate change – Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Climate Science
- Equitable food communities – Duke Sanford World Food Policy Center
- Climate change adaptation – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)