Climate change is a very real threat to public health. Rising greenhouse gas concentrations result in changes in precipitation, increases in temperature, increases in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels.
The impacts of climate change are increasing nationwide, endangering public health by affecting food and water sources, air quality, and weather systems.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program produced a report that analyzed the impacts of global climate change on human health in the United States. The report finds that:
- Climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people.
- Climate change can affect human health in two main ways: first, by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors; and second, by creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places or times of the year where they have not previously occurred.
- Every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change, but some populations will be especially affected. These groups include the poor, some communities of color, limited English-proficiency and immigrant groups, indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, people with disabilities, and people with medical conditions.
The report states, “Almost all of these threats are expected to worsen with continued climate change. Some of these health threats will occur over longer time periods, or at unprecedented times of the year; some people will be exposed to threats not previously experienced in their locations. Overall, instances of potentially beneficial health impacts of climate change are limited in number and pertain to specific regions or populations. For example, the reduction in cold-related deaths is projected to be smaller than the increase in heat-related deaths in most regions.”