Link Climate & Health
Climate change poses unique challenges to human health. Unlike health threats caused by a particular toxicant or disease pathogen, there are many ways that climate change can lead to potentially harmful health effects.
- Direct health impacts may include increased illnesses, injuries, and deaths from extreme weather events, or respiratory illnesses caused by changes in air quality.
- Indirect health impacts may include illnesses and deaths linked to climate-related changes in ecosystems, infectious agents, and agricultural production.
Changes in climate and weather affect the impacts of many diseases, including asthma, heart disease, and salmonellosis. As climate changes, vulnerable people and communities will likely experience more frequent and severe health problems. In addition to potential deaths and illnesses, increasing heat and other weather extremes may undermine public health infrastructure, stress environmental resources, put pressure on economic growth, and create national and international security risks. People may also be affected by changes in the supply and quality of water and food, as well as other ecosystem effects. For example, changes in climate will likely alter the habitat range of Ixodes scapularis, the tick that transmits Lyme disease.
The decisions and strategies used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect communities from climate effects also have important health implications. For instance, reducing combustion of fossil fuels may lower the levels of harmful air pollutants like soot. Adaptation measures such as higher-capacity storm water management systems may help reduce health risks from combined sewer overflow events.
To learn more about the links between climate change and health, explore The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, the health chapter of the Third National Climate Assessment, or read the 2010 interagency report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change.
USGCRP coordinates climate and health-related research and monitoring, vulnerability and risk assessments, and communication, education, and engagement efforts across the Federal Government, in partnership with organizations in the United States and around the world. Select examples of our efforts include:
- The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment: In support of the President’s Climate Action Plan and the sustained assessment process, USGCRP is leading a special assessment on the impacts of climate change on human health in the United States. Drawing from decades of advances in the physical science of climate change, the report strengthens our understanding of the growing risks that a changing climate poses to human health and welfare, and highlights factors that make some individuals and communities particularly vulnerable.
- The Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health (MATCH): MATCH helps public health professionals, investigators, and other users identify and access data that inform climate adaptation and planning strategies to protect and promote human health and wellbeing. Learn more from the MATCH fact sheet.