Climate change poses unique challenges to human health. Unlike health threats caused by a particular toxin or disease pathogen, there are many ways that climate change can lead to potentially harmful health effects.
Interagency Report: A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
The impacts of disease as varied as heart disease, asthma, Lyme disease, and Salmonella infections rise and fall based on changes in weather and climate. As the Nation’s climate changes, vulnerable people and communities will be at risk of more frequent or severe health problems. In addition to deaths and illnesses related to increasing heat and other weather extremes, people will be affected by changes in water supplies and contaminants, food quality, and other ecosystem effects. For example, changes in climate are expected to change habitat suitability for Ixodes scapularis, the tick vector of Lyme disease.
Increased risks associated with diseases originating outside the United States must also be considered because we live in an increasingly globalized world. Many poor nations are expected to suffer even greater health consequences from climate change. With global trade and travel, disease flare-ups in any part of the world can potentially reach the United States.
In addition, weather and climate extremes such as severe storms and drought can undermine public health infrastructure, further stress environmental resources, destabilize economies, and potentially create security risks both within the United States and internationally.
The decisions and strategies used to reduce greenhouse gases and protect communities from climate effects also have important health implications. For example, reducing combustion of fossil fuels as a means of reducing carbon dioxide levels may lower the levels of many harmful air pollutants, like soot. And adaptation measures such as higher capacity storm water management systems may provide the opportunity to reduce health risks from combined sewer overflow events.
Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG)