- Technical Contributor:
- Stasia Widerynski, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- USGCRP Coordinators:
- Ashley Bieniek-Tobasco, Health Program Coordinator
- Sarah Zerbonne, Adaptation and Decision Science Coordinator
- Natalie Bennett, Adaptation and Assessment Analyst
- Christopher W. Avery, Senior Manager
<b>Ebi</b>, K.L., J.M. Balbus, G. Luber, A. Bole, A. Crimmins, G. Glass, S. Saha, M.M. Shimamoto, J. Trtanj, and J.L. White-Newsome, 2018: Human Health. In <i>Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II</i> [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 539–571. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH14
Climate-related changes in weather patterns and associated changes in air, water, food, and the environment are affecting the health and well-being of the American people, causing injuries, illnesses, and death. Increasing temperatures, increases in the frequency and intensity of heat waves (since the 1960s), changes in precipitation patterns (especially increases in heavy precipitation), and sea level rise can affect our health through multiple pathways. Changes in weather and climate can degrade air and water quality; affect the geographic range, seasonality, and intensity of transmission of infectious diseases through food, water, and disease-carrying vectors (such as mosquitoes and ticks); and increase stresses that affect mental health and well-being.
Changing weather patterns also interact with demographic and socioeconomic factors, as well as underlying health trends, to influence the extent of the consequences of climate change for individuals and communities. While all Americans are at risk of experiencing adverse climate-related health outcomes, some populations are disproportionately vulnerable.
The risks of climate change for human health are expected to increase in the future, with the extent of the resulting impacts dependent on the effectiveness of adaptation efforts and on the magnitude and pattern of future climate change. Individuals, communities, public health departments, health-related organizations and facilities, and others are taking action to reduce health vulnerability to current climate change and to increase resilience to the risks projected in coming decades.
The health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions could result in economic benefits of hundreds of billions of dollars each year by the end of the century. Annual health impacts and health-related costs are projected to be approximately 50% lower under a lower scenario (RCP4.5) compared to a higher scenario (RCP8.5). These estimates would be even larger if they included the benefits of health outcomes that are difficult to quantify, such as avoided mental health impacts or long-term physical health impacts.
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