Climate influences many of the key determinants of health: temperature extremes and violent weather events; the geographical range of disease organisms and vectors; the quantity of air, food, and water; and the stability of the ecosystems on which we depend.
Because climate affects us in so many ways and because the details of how the global climate may change are so uncertain, predicting the health effects of climate change is an inexact science at best. But given what is already known about the connection between climate and health and the magnitude of the global warming that scientists project, future health effects could be substantial. These effects are likely to vary widely from region to region, because climate itself is predicted to change differently in various regions. For instance, temperatures are expected to rise more in some areas than others; some places likely will get drier, while others will get more rain than they do today.
Likely health impacts of climate change include direct effects from temperature and weather extremes and from sea-level rise. A number of indirect impacts are also likely to arise from changes in precipitation and temperature patterns, which may disturb natural ecosystems, change the ecology of infectious diseases, harm agriculture and freshwater supplies, exacerbate air pollution levels, and cause large-scale reorganization of plant and animal communities. (See Climate Change Could Profoundly Affect Health.) These indirect effects may, in the long run, have greater cumulative impacts on human health than the direct .
|Climate Change Could Profoundly Affect Health|
|Direct and Indirect Health Impacts of Climate Change|
|Source: Adapted from: World Health Organization (WHO), Climate Change and Human Health, A.J. McMichael, et al., eds. (WHO, Geneva, 1996), Figures 1.1, p. 12.|
References and notes
272. Valerie Setlow and Andrew Pope, eds., Conference on Human Health and Global Climate Change: Summary of the Proceedings, from a conference sponsored by the National Academy of Science, Institute of Medicine on Sept. 11-12, 1995 (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1996), p. 7.