Groundbreaking New Scientific Assessment Focuses on Climate-Related Health Impacts
Last week, we discussed how the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is approaching their National Climate Assessment report, due out in 2018. Yesterday, the USGCRP released a report specifically focused on the public health implications of climate change. Entitled The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, it’s the first major assessment of its kind since 2008.
The assessment explores how climate change contributes to environmental health concerns like extreme heat, air pollution, extreme weather events, food and water quality, and vector-borne diseases. It also addresses the impact of climate change on mental health (using our research report Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change as a reference). And it discusses how vulnerable populations such as the poor and elderly are disproportionately affected.
The assessment can help health professionals, policymakers, and communities recognize how climate risks are growing and changing, and allow them to better identify and prepare for impacts. But as this Environmental Health Perspectives article points out, there are still large gaps in our knowledge, and thus our ability to project future threats. Targeted research and regional centers of study are needed in order to create a truly effective response. In the words of the authors, “It is possible to design and implement interventions to limit the impacts and accompanying human suffering caused by climate change, but only if we make the research investments necessary to improve our understanding of how climate change worsens health.”
By Linda S. Birnbaum, John M. Balbus, and Kimberly Thigpen Tart | Environmental Health Perspectives
The month of April brings two observances of significance for many readers of EHP: National Public Health Week and Earth Day. The first recognizes the importance of prevention efforts in maintaining the health of our nation’s people; the second, our reliance on and obligation to the health of the planet. This year, April also marks the expected final release of a report that brings the convergence of these two ideas into sharp focus. The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, or Climate and Health Assessment, marks a leap forward in our understanding of the public health implications of climate change.
The report, developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program as part of its sustained National Climate Assessment process, is the first major U.S. assessment of the scientific literature on climate change and human health since 2008. The assessment breaks new ground by providing quantitative projections of the influence of climate change on five different environmental public health problems, including extreme heat, air pollution, food- and water-related illness and safety, and vectorborne disease. The report also expands a critical discussion of the mental health implications of climate change, and greatly broadens consideration of the issues facing especially vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.