New Report on Human Health Impacts of Climate Change

Yesterday, April 4, 2016, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)* released The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.  The report was developed over three years in response to the President’s Climate Action Plan.  Building on the 2014 National Climate Assessment, the report details observed and projected (through 2100) climate-related health impacts in the United States.  It reaches the conclusion that “climate change impacts endanger our health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe, the weather we experience, and our interactions with the built and natural environments.  As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health continue to grow.”

The report further finds that “[e]very American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change,” and that certain populations “are disproportionately vulnerable, including those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups (including those with limited English proficiency), Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.”

The report is arranged in nine chapters.  The introductory chapter summarizes information on observations and projections of climate change in the United States and ways in which climate change, in combination with other factors, influences human health.  The middle chapters summarize research on the following specific climate-related health impacts and exposures: Temperature-Related Death and Illness; Air Quality Impacts; Extreme Events; Vector-Borne Diseases; Water-Related Illness; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Distribution; and Mental Health and Well-Being. The final chapter, Populations of Concern, identifies specific populations that may be more vulnerable to health-related impacts from climate change and the factors that may create or exacerbate such vulnerability.

In conjunction with the release of the report, the White House announced certain new initiatives to “respond to the critical challenges and vulnerabilities outlined in the Climate and Health Assessment,” which include the development of a Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative to provide awards for tribal and territorial health departments to investigate, prepare for, and adapt to the health effects of climate change.

*The USGCRP is a federal program—established by Presidential initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress—to coordinate and integrate global change research across thirteen federal agencies.

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