Climate change worsens risks to public health: US report

Climate change worsens risks to public health: US report

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Published

5 April 2016

The United States Global Change Research Program has released a new assessment of a growing public health threat, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. 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 assessment is based on a coordinated effort by eight Federal agencies (with leadership from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and more than 100 experts from across the United States to inform public health officials, urban and disaster response planners, decision makers, and other stakeholders about the risks climate change presents to human health. 

Nearly all of the health threats are expected to worsen. These include increases in exposure to excessive heat, more frequent, severe, or longer-lasting extreme weather events, degraded air quality, diseases transmitted through food, water, and vectors (such as ticks and mosquitoes), and even stresses to mental health.

The report focuses on the USA but its findings are relevant globally. In view of the increasingly intertwined relationship between climate change and health, WMO and WHO have a joint office on climate and health to tackle existing and emerging challenges.

At a recent meeting, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan agreed to strengthen the partnership. They cited the importance of climate prediction and early warning systems as a tool against vector-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera and zika; the need for more impact-based forecasting for extreme weather; and better air quality monitoring to help in the fight against air pollution and respiratory problems.

The full report is available here

The NOAA press release is available here

The WHO-WMO Atlas on Health and Climate is available here

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