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Climate Change and Health

A section of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Section Information

Weather, climate variability, and climate change affect human health and well-being through multiple, complex, and interacting pathways. Warming, changing precipitation patterns, increases in extreme weather and climate events, sea level rise, and ocean acidification are affecting the numbers of weather- and climate-sensitive injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Some causal pathways for climate-sensitive health outcomes are relatively direct, such as those resulting in injuries from heatwaves, floods, and storms, while others are more complex, such as those affecting important infectious diseases and impacts mediated through natural and socio-ecological systems. While some impacts from climate change will likely be salutary in the short term some locations, the net effects will be detrimental.

Development choices, including policies affecting economic growth, and trends related to demographics, migration, research and development, geopolitics, and urbanization, will influence health outcomes and the capacity of health systems to cope with projected changes. In addition, other global environmental changes (e.g. land use change, freshwater availability and quality, biodiversity loss) can interact with climate change to further alter the distribution and burden of climate-sensitive health outcomes. Decision-makers require new knowledge to aid individuals, communities, and health systems manage the risks associated with a changing environment.

Research and practice needed at local to international scales include:

  • Elaborate causal pathways relating global environmental changes with health;
  • Quantify associations between weather and health, taking into consideration other key drivers;
  • Assess the current burden of climate-sensitive disease;
  • Identify thresholds and time of emergence of climate-sensitive health outcomes;
  • Project climate-sensitive disease burdens under different climate and development pathways, including health system impacts, focused on how changing weather patterns could affect the geographic range, seasonality, and/or burden of health outcomes;
  • Examine challenges and opportunities for multi-sectoral adaptation partnerships that benefit human health;
  • Identify, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation policies and programs; and
  • Estimate the range of health co-benefits of climate change mitigation policies and technologies.

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