Tuesday, April 05, 2016

White House:  Climate Change Poses Urgent Health Risk

Projected increase in deaths due to warming in summer (April-September) and winter (October-March), and net change in deaths compared to 1990 baseline period for 209 U.S. cities examined. Data from Schwartz et al. 2015. (Credit: U.S. Global Change Research Program) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change is a major threat to human health, with extreme heat likely to kill 27,000 Americans annually by 2100, according to a report released Monday by the White House.

The report, by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, outlines numerous ways global warming could devastate public health in the U.S. this century.

Global warming will lead to heat waves so extreme that in the hottest times of the year, it will be “physiologically impossible” for people who work outdoors to do their jobs, John Holdren, a science advisor to the Obama administration, said during a news conference about the report.

“People who work outdoors will be unable to control their body temperature and will die,” he said. “This is a really, really big deal.”

A 2015 Climate Central analysis of climate threats through 2050 for all 50 states, States at Risk, found heat to be the greatest threat of all, and the one for which most states, particularly high-risk states in the South, were poorly prepared.

Climate change will pose a major health threat to people of color, indigenous people and low-income communities, according to the report.  It will lead to worsening air pollution, expose more people to waterborne illnesses, leave the American food supply vulnerable to a greater number of toxins and will potentially devastate the U.S. healthcare infrastructure as it becomes exposed to extreme weather.

By the end of the century, climate change will kill many tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S. because of disease and more extreme heat waves, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, winds, lightning, cold snaps and winter storms, the report said.

“For the first time in history we’ve been able to show it’s not just about polar bears and melting ice caps, it’s about our families and about our future,” Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, said.  “Every part of the U.S. is impacted now by climate and is going to be increasingly impacted if we do not take action now to reduce those impacts.”

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