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Impact of Climate Change on Health

Published on: October 14, 2021.


250,000 additional deaths

per year from climate change related causes

About this Data Insights

Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity and it is disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) special report. Climate change is affecting global weather patterns and weather variability is only increasing, causing a greater number of heat waves and floods that are far more extreme and last far longer. These changes are collectively increasing the number of injuries, illnesses, and deaths from a wide range of climate-sensitive health outcomes. Future health risks will be determined not just by the hazards created by a changing climate, but also by the sensitivity of individuals and communities exposed to these hazards and the capacity of health systems to prepare for them. These risks are unevenly distributed, creating new inequities and exacerbating those that already existed.

This infographic was reviewed by Jeremy S. Hoffman, Ph.D., David and Jane Cohn Scientist, Science Museum of Virginia

Citations
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Social and environmental determinants of health: World Health Organization, Climate change and health, February 2018

Additional global deaths: World Health Organization, Climate change and health, February 2018

  • NOTE: Deaths will be attributed to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress

What are the impacts of climate change on health?

Climate changes affects on health:U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health

Extreme heat deaths: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Climate Change Indicators: Heat-Related Deaths

Extreme heat costs: Natural Resources Defense Council, The Costs of Inaction: The Economic Burden of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change on Health in the United States, May 2021

  • NOTE: Encompasses both premature mortality and illness-related costs of heat

Sea level rise affecting 20M Americans: Strauss, B.H., Kulp, S. & Levermann, A. (2015). Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (112),44, 13508-13513

Extreme weather events affect mental health: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mental Health and Stress-Related Disorders

Climate change distributed unequally: American Public Health Association, Climate Change, Health, and Equity: A Guide for Local health Departments

Directs cost of climate change to health: Natural Resources Defense Council, The Costs of Inaction: The Economic Burden of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change on Health in the United States, May 2021

  • NOTE: The $820 billion figure highlighted in our report refers exclusively to the economic impact of premature deaths associated with fossil fuel-generated air pollution. The report combined findings from prior studies that were not causal climate change “attribution” analysis. This report compiled information from prior studies on a range of climate-sensitive health problems.

Who is at risk of health impacts associated with climate change?

Every American faces risks from climate change: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health

People with higher exposure: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health

People who are more sensitive : U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health

People who experience more barriers: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health

What can be done to slow climate change and protect health?

Integrating public health into national resilience: Sierra Club, Five global health solutions in a changing climate, 2015

Sustainable diet: Public Health Institute’s Center for Climate Change & Health, Solutions

Walkable Cities: Public Health Institute’s Center for Climate Change & Health, Solutions

Stronger policies around resources: Public Health Institute’s Center for Climate Change & Health, Solutions

Resilience in vulnerable communities: Public Health Institute’s Center for Climate Change & Health, Solutions

Strengthen and prepare health care systems: Sierra Club, Five global health solutions in a changing climate, 2015

Water and sanitation: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Climate and Health Intervention Assessment, 2017

Peer-to-peer support: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Climate and Health Intervention Assessment, 2017

Partnerships: Sierra Club, Five global health solutions in a changing climate, 2015


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