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Climate Change

Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment

Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment

Climate change is affecting the health of Americans. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges. This assessment significantly advances what we know about the impacts of climate change on public health, and the confidence with which we know it. While all Americans will be affected by climate change, the report recognizes populations of concern, such as children, the elderly, outdoor workers, and those living in disadvantaged communities, who are disproportionately vulnerable.

Read the full report online
Video: Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment


Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal

NIEHS' knowledge management tool for locating the most relevant scientific literature on the health implications of climate change.

Explore the Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal

Climate change is the result of the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels for energy and other human activities. These gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, warm and alter the global climate, which causes environmental changes to occur that can harm people's health and well-being. The NIEHS Climate Change and Human Health Program leads and coordinates the Institute's efforts to better understand climate change, in order to protect people's health.

Man sweating

How does climate change affect human health?

While climate change is a global process, it has very local impacts that can profoundly affect communities. It can affect people's health and well-being in many ways, some of which are already occurring, by:

  • Increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, leading to more heat-related illnesses and deaths.
  • Changing the range of disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas that transmit West Nile Virus, dengue fever, Lyme disease, and malaria to humans.
  • Increasing exposure to pollen, due to increased plant growing seasons; molds, due to severe storms; and air pollution, due to increased temperature and humidity, all of which can worsen allergies and other lung diseases, such as asthma.
  • Increasing temperatures and causing poor air quality that can affect the heart and worsen cardiovascular disease.
  • Increasing flooding events and sea level rise that can contaminate water with harmful bacteria, viruses, and chemicals, causing foodborne and waterborne illnesses.
  • Increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, in addition to causing injuries, deaths, illnesses, and effects on mental health from damage to property, loss of loved ones, displacement, and chronic stress.
  • Placing added stress on hospital and public health systems, and limiting people's ability to obtain adequate health care during extreme climate events.

U.S. Surgeon General Addresses UN Conference on Climate Change (COP-21)

What NIEHS is Doing on Climate Change 

General Information 

Environmental health effects

Research Links 

  • Confalonieri U, Menne B, Aktar R, Ebi KL, Hauengue M, Kovats RS, Revich B, Woodward A. 2007. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Parry ML, Canziani, OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson, CE, eds. UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • NRC (National Research Council). 2010. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  • USGCRP (United States Global Change Research Program). 2009. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Karl TR, Melillo JM, Peterson TC, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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