New Report Shows Climate Change is a “Clear Threat to Our Health” -- EDF

April 4, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

A new report unveiled today by U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) outlines the multiple ways that climate change threatens the lives and health of all Americans.

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment is the result of three years of work by the USGCRP, which also prepared the 2014 .

The new assessment focuses on the impacts on climate change on public health, and it finds:

“Climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people. The impacts of human-induced climate change are increasing nationwide … climate change impacts endanger our health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe, the weather we experience, and our interactions with the built and natural environments. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health continue to grow.”

The release of the assessment comes on the heels of almost two dozen court briefs filed in support of the Clean Power Plan – the single biggest step that America has taken to address climate change. Hundreds of business, government, medical, scientific, religious and environmental leaders – including EDF — called on the courts to uphold the measure against challenges.

“Just last week, we saw a massive outpouring of support for the Clean Power Plan. Today, this report shows why the Clean Power Plan and other measures to reduce climate pollution are so vitally important,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “This new assessment shows that climate change is a clear threat to our health and the health of our families, which gives all of us a very personal stake in this fight. Hopefully, it will encourage more Americans to support climate action.”

The new report lists a frighteningly long list of ways that climate change can make us sick, hurt us, or even kill us. In nine chapters, it covers temperature related deaths and illnesses, air quality impacts, water related illnesses, food safety, and diseases transmitted by pests like fleas and mosquitos.

Among its findings:

  • “Days that are hotter than usual in the summer or colder than usual in the winter are both associated with increased illness and death… Mortality effects are observed even for small differences from seasonal average temperatures.”
  • “Based on present-day sensitivity to heat, an increase of thousands to tens of thousands of premature heat-related deaths in the summer … [is] projected each year as a result of climate change by the end of the century.”
  • “Climate change will make it harder for any given regulatory approach to reduce ground-level ozone pollution [smog] in the future as meteorological conditions become increasingly conducive to forming ozone over most of the United States … Unless offset by additional emissions reductions, these climate-driven increases in ozone will cause premature deaths, hospital visits, lost school days, and acute respiratory symptoms.”
  • “Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and a higher frequency of some extreme weather events associated with climate change will influence the distribution, abundance, and prevalence of infection in the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus and other pathogens by altering habitat availability and mosquito and viral reproduction rates.”
  • “Ticks capable of carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease and other pathogens will show earlier seasonal activity and a generally northward expansion in response to increasing temperatures associated with climate change.”
  • “Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events will increasingly compromise recreational waters, shellfish harvesting waters, and sources of drinking water through increased introduction of pathogens and prevalence of toxic algal blooms.”
  • “Increases in some extreme weather events and storm surges will increase the risk that infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater will fail due to either damage or exceedance of system capacity, especially in areas with aging infrastructure.”
  • “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses per year, with approximately 3,000 deaths. As climate change drives changes in environmental variables such as ambient temperature, precipitation, and weather extremes (particularly flooding and drought), increases in foodborne illnesses are expected.”
  • “The nutritional value of agriculturally important food crops, such as wheat and rice, will decrease as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to reduce the concentrations of protein and essential minerals in most plant species.”

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