Environmental Health & Climate Change
- Global climate change is projected to increase the frequency and duration of periods of extremely high temperatures. Both the general populace and public health authorities often underestimate the impact of high temperatures on human health. To highlight the vulnerable populations and illustrate approaches to minimization of health impacts of extreme heat, the authors reviewed the studies of heat-related morbidity and mortality for high-risk populations in the U.S. and Europe from 1958 to 2012. Heat exposure not only can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke but also can exacerbate a wide range of medical conditions.
- It is well accepted that air pollution has a deleterious impact on personal and public health. Because control and reduction of air pollution are subject to federal regulation, physicians, as advocates for patients, must help educate the Congress on its critical role in preventing the health effects of air pollution. This is particularly important given that Congress is currently debating whether to dismantle existing laws that protect the air we breathe, especially the Clean Air Act [CAA], a cornerstone of environmental health law.
- The Copenhagen summit was to be moment in history when the international community was to agree that climate change is the most urgent and important threat facing global health1 and take decisive action to prevent its worst impacts.2 Instead, the UN summit in Copenhagen was plagued by political infighting, policy disagreement, increasing public scepticism, and persistent criticism of the science in the lay literature. It is not clear what effect this critique of the science had on policymakers during and after the summit, but the effects on public opinion have been profound.
- Public health adaptation to climate change is an important issue and inevitably is needed to address the adverse health impacts of climate change over the next few decades. This paper provides an overview of the constraints and barriers to public health adaptation and explores future research directions in this emerging field. An extensive literature review was conducted in 2010 and published literature from 2000 to 2010 was retrieved. This review shows that public health adaptation essentially can operate at two levels, namely, adaptive-capacity building and implementation of adaptation actions.
- The earth's climate is changing, due largely to greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity. These human-generated gases derive in part from aspects of the built environment such as transportation systems and infrastructure, building construction and operation, and land-use planning. Transportation, the largest end-use consumer of energy, affects human health directly through air pollution and subsequent respiratory effects, as well as indirectly through physical activity behavior. Buildings contribute to climate change, influence transportation, and affect health through the materials utilized, decisions about sites, electricity and water usage, and landscape surroundings.
- The effects of and responses to the health impacts of climate change will affect individuals, communities, and societies. Effectively preparing for and responding to current and projected climate change requires ongoing assessment and action, not a one-time assessment of risks and interventions. To promote resilience to climate change and other community stressors, a stepwise course of action is proposed for community-based adaptation that engages stakeholders in a proactive problem solving process to enhance social capital across local and national levels.
- A decade ago there was active debate about whether human-induced climate change was real, and whether human contributions have played a major causal role in the recently observed global warming. That debate is largely over, although the inherent complexities of climate system science and various uncertainties over details remain. A corollary question—whether climate change would have implications for public health—also has been settled. The answer is yes. A range of possible effects has been identified, some now fairly well understood and others yet unclear.
- The association between climate change and the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events is now well established. General circulation models of climate change predict that heatwaves will become more frequent and intense, especially in the higher latitudes, affecting large metropolitan areas that are not well adapted to them. Exposure to extreme heat is already a significant public health problem and the primary cause of weather-related mortality in the U.S. This article reviews major epidemiologic risk factors associated with mortality from extreme heat exposure and discusses future drivers of heat-related mortality, including a warming climate, the urban heat island effect, and an aging population.
- Climate change could significantly affect vectorborne disease in humans. Temperature, precipitation, humidity, and other climatic factors are known to affect the reproduction, development, behavior, and population dynamics of the arthropod vectors of these diseases. Climate also can affect the development of pathogens in vectors, as well as the population dynamics and ranges of the nonhuman vertebrate reservoirs of many vectorborne diseases. Whether climate changes increase or decrease the incidence of vectorborne diseases in humans will depend not only on the actual climatic conditions but also on local nonclimatic epidemiologic and ecologic factors.