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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(7), 8034-8074; doi:10.3390/ijerph120708034

Limitations to Thermoregulation and Acclimatization Challenge Human Adaptation to Global Warming

National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health. Australian National University, Mills St. Acton, ACT 0200, Australia
These authors contributed equally to this work.
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jan C. Semenza
Received: 23 April 2015 / Revised: 15 June 2015 / Accepted: 30 June 2015 / Published: 15 July 2015
(This article belongs to the Collection Climate Change and Human Health)
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Abstract

Human thermoregulation and acclimatization are core components of the human coping mechanism for withstanding variations in environmental heat exposure. Amidst growing recognition that curtailing global warming to less than two degrees is becoming increasing improbable, human survival will require increasing reliance on these mechanisms. The projected several fold increase in extreme heat events suggests we need to recalibrate health protection policies and ratchet up adaptation efforts. Climate researchers, epidemiologists, and policy makers engaged in climate change adaptation and health protection are not commonly drawn from heat physiology backgrounds. Injecting a scholarly consideration of physiological limitations to human heat tolerance into the adaptation and policy literature allows for a broader understanding of heat health risks to support effective human adaptation and adaptation planning. This paper details the physiological and external environmental factors that determine human thermoregulation and acclimatization. We present a model to illustrate the interrelationship between elements that modulate the physiological process of thermoregulation. Limitations inherent in these processes, and the constraints imposed by differing exposure levels, and thermal comfort seeking on achieving acclimatization, are then described. Combined, these limitations will restrict the likely contribution that acclimatization can play in future human adaptation to global warming. We postulate that behavioral and technological adaptations will need to become the dominant means for human individual and societal adaptations as global warming progresses. View Full-Text
Keywords: thermoregulation; acclimatization; climate change; climate change adaptation; heat policy; health risks; extreme heat; thermal comfort; heat physiology; limits thermoregulation; acclimatization; climate change; climate change adaptation; heat policy; health risks; extreme heat; thermal comfort; heat physiology; limits
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Hanna, E.G.; Tait, P.W. Limitations to Thermoregulation and Acclimatization Challenge Human Adaptation to Global Warming. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 8034-8074.

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