On April 4, the government’s US Global Change Research Program released a climate change impacts report three years in the making. The report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, was compiled by eight federal government agencies, with contributions from over 100 experts and extensive peer review.
The focus on human health impacts expands on what was one chapter in the government’s 2014 Third National Climate Assessment. In announcing the new report, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, “If we don’t address climate change, then we will not be safeguarding the health of current and future generations.” The report covers many health risks, framing climate change as a significant public health issue. Among the many health issues catalogued are:
- a rise in premature deaths and acute respiratory illnesses (e.g., asthma and severe allergies) from ground level ozone increases and other pollution;
- deaths due to extreme heat events;
- a spread and increase in insect borne diseases as insects proliferate and migrate in a warming climate;
- an increase in water borne diseases resulting from overwhelmed water and wastewater infrastructure;
- a decrease in food nutritional values and safety; and
- an increased exposure to traumas that affect mental health and well-being.
These health impacts will hit certain parts of the population more significantly. Children and pregnant women, people with disabilities, low-income people, and the elderly top the list. The report also notes, “many of the health threats described in this report do not occur in isolation but may be cumulative, compounding, or secondary.”
The report is a strong, evidence-based call-to-action for working to prevent climate change to protect public health and well being. For US businesses, the incentives are clear for working to protect workforce health, safety, and wellness and create preventative, adaptive, and new product climate change strategies and solutions.