Impacts of Rising Temperatures on Human Health and Safety

While many in the Northern Hemisphere may be compiling anecdata this time of year about the impacts of high temperatures on productivity, health, and well-being, several recent studies have made broader attempts to quantify the potential public health threat of climate change from different angles.

A study in GeoHealth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, investigated the effect of changes in temperature on hyperthermia and cardiovascular emergency department visits for patients age 64 and younger.  The researchers found a strong positive relationship for hyperthermia (but not cardiovascular issues).  They predict that hyperthermia visits could increase by 21,000 to 28,000 by 2050, depending on greenhouse gas emission levels, with an associated price tag of between $6 million and $52 million.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at activity levels of police officers and food safety inspectors during times of extreme temperatures, finding that both police stops and food safety inspections decrease in periods of hot and cold temperatures.  The researchers found that these temperature extremes also correlate with increases in fatal crash risks and food safety violations.  They note that studies of potential political impacts of climate change have to date focused on more extreme consequences (for example, this study on democratic turnover), but climate change may have independent effects on governmental function on a day-to-day basis as well (that could also lead to more extreme political consequences).

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