Climate change has important impact on health

1. The number of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit per year will increase 2-3 fold from 1960-1999 to 2046-2056 in Milwaukee, Dallas, New York, and Chicago.

2. Climate change bears important health consequences, including increases in heat-related death, respiratory illness, infectious disease, and mental health disorders.

3. Interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can improve health-related outcomes.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Study Rundown: Greenhouse gas emissions have increased rapidly over time, and have largely thought to do so secondary to human activity. The climate change associated with these emissions is a critical issue with important public policy and public health repercussions. This article highlights the important impacts of climate change on human health and disease. Study authors reviewed the international literature on the health consequences of climate change and performed an analysis of US risks from ozone air pollution and heat waves. Based on projections from four US cities – Milwaukee, Dallas, New York, and Chicago – the number of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit per year were predicted to increase 2-3 times from the reported temperatures during 1960-1999 to the projected temperatures for 2046-2065. Ozone air pollution was demonstrated to parallel increasing temperatures. Changes in climate are predicted to parallel an increase in the prevalence of respiratory diseases due to respiratory particulates, infectious disease due to changes in pathogen life cycles and geographic distributions, and mental health disorders related to weather disasters. Interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were linked to improved health outcomes, most directly through transitions from driving to more active transportation methods such as biking or walking.

Given that the nature of climate change research is not conducive to traditional investigative paradigms such as randomized controlled trials, this study performs a thorough review of the literature to predict its impact on health outcomes and uses a rigorous statistical model to predict its impact on future temperatures. Though more research is required to fully examine the relationship between climate change and health, this study demonstrates the adverse health outcomes predicted by the current literature and highlights the necessity of curtailing climate change.

Click to read the study, published today in JAMA

Click to read an accompanying editorial, published today in JAMA

Relevant Reading: Expert credibility in climate change

In-Depth [literature review and statistical analysis]: This study reviewed the international literature on health and societal consequences of climate change and performed an analysis of climate trends in four US cities (Milwaukee, Dallas, New York, and Chicago) using global climate models. These cities are expected to experience 2-3 times more days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit each year between 2046-2065 in comparison to 1960-1999. The body of literature on climate change supports increases in heat-related deaths, respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, and mental health disorders over time. It also demonstrates the association between efforts to decrease green house emissions and beneficial health outcomes. For example, studies have shown that interventions promoting walking or bicycling to work as opposed to using cars, busses, or trains decrease cardiovascular disease and risk.

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