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Climate change poses unique challenges to human health. Unlike health threats caused by a particular toxin or disease pathogen, there are many ways that climate change can lead to potentially harmful health effects.
- Direct health impacts may include increased illnesses and deaths from extreme heat events, injuries and deaths from extreme weather events, and respiratory illnesses due to changes in air quality
- Indirect health impacts include illnesses and deaths that may arise from
climate-related changes in ecosystems, infectious agents, or agricultural production.
What are the links between climate change and human health?
Interagency Report: A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
The impacts of disease as varied as heart disease, asthma, Lyme disease, and Salmonella infections rise and fall based on changes in weather and climate. As the Nation’s climate changes, vulnerable people and communities will be at risk of more frequent or severe health problems. In addition to deaths and illnesses related to increasing heat and other weather extremes, people will be affected by changes in water supplies and contaminants, food quality, and other ecosystem effects. For example, changes in climate are expected to change habitat suitability for Ixodes scapularis, the tick vector of Lyme disease.
Increased risks associated with diseases originating outside the United States must also be considered because we live in an increasingly globalized world. Many poor nations are expected to suffer even greater health consequences from climate change. With global trade and travel, disease flare-ups in any part of the world can potentially reach the United States.
In addition, weather and climate extremes such as severe storms and drought can undermine public health infrastructure, further stress environmental resources, destabilize economies, and potentially create security risks both within the United States and internationally.
The decisions and strategies used to reduce greenhouse gases and protect communities from climate effects also have important health implications. For example, reducing combustion of fossil fuels as a means of reducing carbon dioxide levels may lower the levels of many harmful air pollutants, like soot. And adaptation measures such as higher capacity storm water management systems may provide the opportunity to reduce health risks from combined sewer overflow events.
Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG)
The Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG) supports all four of USGCRP’s new strategic goals and works to address key gaps in understanding of the human health related impacts of global change. The group provides coordination of basic climate and health research, monitoring and health surveillance, vulnerability and risk assessments, and communication, education, and engagement efforts across the Federal government, in partnership with organizations in the United States and around the world. CCHHG accomplishments and ongoing efforts include:
- Interagency Special Report on Climate Change Impacts on Human Health in the United States
As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG) is leading an interagency Special Report on the impacts of climate change on human health in the U.S. Development of the report will leverage existing activities, aggregate and assess current quantitative research on human health impacts of climate change, and summarize the current state of the science. To learn more about the Special Report and opportunities to inform its development, please click here.
- The Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health (MATCH)
MATCH was developed to help public health professionals, investigators, and other users identify and access datasets essential to climate and health research that informs adaptation and planning strategies to protect and promote human well-being.
- National Climate Assessment Support
Coordinating through the CCHHG, agencies provided important technical inputs to the Health Chapter of the National Climate Assessment. The CDC support two regional workshops, one in Charleston, South Carolina, the other in Seattle, Washington. NIH provided a comprehensive literature review.
- Climate Adaptation Task Force
Members of the CCHHG comprised the health working group for the President's Climate Adaptation Task Force, drafting the health chapter and recommendations for the initial report. The CCHHG continues to work towards implementing those recommendations, including the development of the MATCH website.
Federal Climate and Health Programs
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