The Effect of Climate Change on Public Health

As our climate alters, health threats increase – from more frequent heat waves to vector-borne disease transmission.

Climate change will impact everyone, but certain populations will bear its burden more heavily than others. These include minorities, low-income communities, children and pregnant women as well as older adults as well as people living with medical conditions.

Extreme Weather

Warmer climates affect everything from extreme heat and drought to wildfires and flooding, and experts use an investigative technique known as extreme event attribution to study individual events to understand whether global warming has made them more or less likely, and how much.

Warming increases the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. Pollutants from high temperatures and particulate matter may further compound these risks to health.

People’s vulnerability to climate change varies depending on where they reside, how sensitive they are to threats and stressors, and their capacity for adaptation. Vulnerable groups include low-income populations, some communities of color, indigenous peoples, children, the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions or disabilities which render them even more susceptible. Disruptions to water, food transportation and communication systems further heighten this vulnerability.


Two billion people lack safe drinking water and one third of the global population has experienced severe water scarcity at some point. Without access to safe water supplies, prolonged stress can cause dehydration, illness and death as well as increase vulnerability to diseases like cholera, typhoid and polio.

Climate change is having an enormous effect on our water. Floods and droughts are projected to become more frequent, as are heat waves and heavy rainfall events, increasing pollution entering freshwater sources (such as sediments, pathogens and pesticides), decreasing availability and polluting drinking water supplies.

Healthy aquatic ecosystems such as wetlands absorb and store carbon, helping mitigate greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, many are being lost due to human activities; we need our assistance in protecting these vital environments.


Certain gases found in our atmosphere known as greenhouse gases act to trap heat and prevent it from escaping into space, and are thus one of the main drivers behind climate change.

Warmer temperatures lead to glaciers and ice sheets melting faster, river and lake ice breaking up sooner, plants growing earlier, animals breeding earlier, as well as an increase in wildfire risks.

Air pollution resulting from fossil fuel combustion is linked with respiratory illnesses and decreased life expectancies, increasing exposure to smog and fine particulate matter as temperatures rise; outdoor wildfire smoke exposure has been associated with asthma attacks, heart diseases, and other serious health concerns.

Reduce climate change risks to people and ecosystems by decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, while providing vulnerable communities with opportunities to adapt and mitigate climate change mitigation efforts.


Global hunger levels are steadily on the rise and food security is an essential aspect of health. Global warming threatens food production by altering rainfall patterns, which increases risks of hunger.

Climate change refers to any long-term alteration in average weather conditions due to human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal which release heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting in higher global temperatures.

Climate change affects all people, yet those least responsible–people in low-income communities and countries–are especially harmed by its effects. Climate change also worsens existing health conditions while increasing foodborne illness risks – it’s time to take action now!


Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as heat waves, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and flooding, increasing risk to public health while simultaneously straining existing systems. This exposes people to new health threats while straining existing ones.

Warmer temperatures provide the ideal environment for disease-carrying organisms like mosquitoes and ticks to spread infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and dengue fever. Furthermore, weather patterns may carry these organisms far distances.

Climate change impacts are felt across society, yet vulnerable populations feel them most profoundly – this includes individuals living on low incomes, communities of color with limited English proficiency and children, older adults living with preexisting conditions or occupational groups exposed to harsh climate stressors. Their severity can increase depending on how people respond and adapt.

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