Originally published on Sustainnovate.
A new report released by the White House warns that climate change is an imminent and growing threat to public health, and that extreme heat will kill around 27,000 US residents per year by 2100.
A science advisor to the Obama administration by the name of John Holdren commented on the report at a recent press conference, noting that extreme heat waves will make outdoor work periodically “impossible:”
“People who work outdoors will be unable to control their body temperature and will die. This is a really, really big deal.”
The report — titled “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment,” and put together by the US Global Change Research Program — notes that anthropogenic climate change will lead to growing air pollution levels, expanding waterborne illness prevalence, the expansion of toxin presence in the US food supply, and the weakening and overburdening of healthcare infrastructure.
“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,” stated Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. “Every part of the US is impacted now by climate and is going to be increasingly impacted if we do not take action now to reduce those impacts.”
Climate Central provides more:
The 332-page report, with contributions from hundreds of scientists from universities across the country, was released as part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. The plan aims to reduce the US contribution to global warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28% by 2025. The US is a party to the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep global warming from exceeding 2° C (3.6° F).
…The report says climate change will threaten public health by increasing the severity and frequency of existing health problems and by posing unprecedented health problems — such as the spread of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease — in places where they have never occurred before.
As temperatures warm, mosquito-born illnesses such as West Nile virus, malaria, and dengue fever, could also spread throughout the US, sickening and killing Americans in the process, the report said. Air quality is expected to decline because of increased ozone pollution and a greater number of severe wildfires, leading to worsened allergy and asthma conditions and deaths. Poor water quality caused by climate change could also lead to the spread of disease, according to the report. Warmer temperatures will warm lakes and streams, contributing to blooms of toxic algae, while coastal flooding from rising seas and higher storm surge could overwhelm urban wastewater systems and expose residents to waterborne pathogens.
America’s food supply is vulnerable to toxins and diseases spread by warming temperatures, the report said. Higher sea surface temperatures will lead to more mercury in seafood while warming will lead to the wider spread of pathogens, pests and parasites in the food supply such as norovirus, listeria, salmonella, E. coli and others. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide also reduces the concentrations of proteins and minerals in some plant species, reducing the nutritional value of wheat and rice, according to the report. Extreme weather could also severely damage America’s food distribution infrastructure, leaving people without access to nutritional food.
Mental health is also likely to be affected on the mass scale, according to the director of At-Risk, Behavioral Health and Community Resilience at the US Department of Health and Human Services, Daniel Dodgen. Through the impacts of extreme weather on living situation (housing, jobs, family deaths, health problems, etc), the mental health of a great many people will be affected as well, according to Dodgen.
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