USGCRP: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment

The U.S. Global Climate Research Program (USGCRP) Climate and Health Assessment delineates climate-related health impacts in the United States - building on the USGCRP’s 2014 National Climate Assessment. The report/online interactive website provides a comprehensive assessment of observed and projected health impacts from climate change, discusses the climate causal pathways while providing explicit scientific support, identifies emerging issues, and recognizes particular impacts on vulnerable populations. The report focuses on the climate impacts and related public health implications of: temperature related death and illness, air quality, extreme weather events, vector-borne disease, and water related illness.

The first chapter - Climate Change and Human Health - describes how specific exposure pathways can lead to human disease; how climate change creates or exacerbates health problems; and how preexisting health conditions, socioeconomic status, and life stage all contribute to vulnerability to climate-related and weather-related health effects.

Each of the chapters following address a climate induced or exacerbated public health impact - and offers an overview Summary, Key Findings, Populations of Concern, Emerging Issues, and Research Needs.

The Populations of Concern chapter considers how some residents, including those with low income, communities of color, immigrant groups (including those with limited English proficiency), Indigenous peoples, children, pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions, experience disproportionate or more complex risks to their health in response to climate change. The report provides detailed analysis of how each of these groups might be impacted. For example, it explains that elderly people may be more likely to suffer during extreme weather events if they rely on elevators that may not function after a power-outage or if they live in a place with limited public transit. 

 

The key findings addressed in the Temperature related Death and Illness chapter are that there will be future increases in temperature related deaths; even small differences from seasonal average temperatures result in illness and death; tolerance to extreme heat changes; and some populations are at greater risk for illness or death. 

The Air Quality section discusses outdoor air quality; climate impacts on aero-allergens and respiratory diseases; the emerging issue of climate impacts on indoor air quality; and further research needs.

Four categories of extreme events with important health impacts in the United States are addressed in the Extreme Weather Events chapter:

  • flooding related to extreme precipitation, hurricanes, and coastal storms,
  • droughts,
  • wildfires, and
  • winter storms and severe thunderstorms.

This resource was featured in the April 22, 2016, ASAP Newsletter.

"This digital climate and health assessment report from the U.S. Global Change Research program provides a sector-by-sector overview and key findings about the effect of climate change on human health. Using the 2014 National Climate Assessment and key publications, the report collects quantitative data analyses and assesses their strength to depict the strong linkages between climate change and human health effects."

Vector-borne Disease describes the state of science and how various climate impacts increase transmission, and how climate change is contributing to the proliferation of Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

The Water Related Illness chapter covers health risks associated with changes in natural marine, coastal, and freshwater systems and water infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. This chapter also includes fish and shellfish illnesses associated with the waters in which they grow and which are affected by the same climate factors that affect drinking and recreational waters.

Food Safety, Nutrition and Distribution focuses on some of the less reported aspects of food security, specifically the impacts of climate change on food safety, nutrition, and distribution.

As illuminated in the report, the impact of climate on food safety occurs through multiple pathways. Changes in air and water temperatures, weather-related changes, and extreme events can shift the seasonal and geographic occurrence of bacteria, viruses, pests, parasites, fungi, and other chemical contaminants. 

Many people will experience adverse mental health outcomes and social impacts from the threat of climate change, the direct experience of climate change, and changes to one’s local environment. Key Findings in the Mental Health and Well-Being chapter are that:

1: Exposure to Disasters Results in Mental Health Consequences

2: Specific Groups of People Are at Higher Risk

3: Climate Change Threats Result in Mental Health Consequences and Social Impacts

4: Extreme Heat Increases Risks for People with Mental Illness

 

If you have any trouble accessing the website link above, please find here an archived page. You may find this has limited use.

http://web.archive.org/web/20170206030842/https://health2016.globalchange.gov

 

Publication Date: April 3, 2016

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