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The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health lists eight ways in which human health will be harmed by climate change. Can you identify how climate change is impacting each of these categories, and an area of the U.S. that will be particularly impacted by it?
- Extreme Temperatures
- Climate change is driving up the frequency of days with extreme heat.
- Extreme heat puts people in every part of the U.S.—yes, including Alaska—at greater risk for heat stroke.
- Outdoor Air Quality
- Warmer weather contributes to greater smog and incidents of wildfire, as well as longer “allergy seasons” when pollens permeate the air. This will put people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses at risk.
- The southwestern U.S. will be hit with worsening air quality as areas such as California’s “Inland Empire” suffer more days with smog and smoke.
- Extreme Events
- More intense and frequent hurricanes, droughts, and floods not only cause immediate harm but pose long-lasting threats. Weakened infrastructure may include contaminated water and interrupted food supplies.
- Hawaii, isolated in the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most at-risk areas for extreme weather events.
- Food-Related Infection & Agriculture
- Many disease-causing bacteria thrive in warmer, wetter weather. These pathogens can impact both crops in the field and prepared food.
- Sparsely populated desert areas, such as the Great Basin, often rely heavily on prepared and imported food. These areas are at increased risk for food-related infections.
- Water-Related Infection
- Mosquito- and Tick-Borne Infections
- Climate change has broadened the species range of mosquitoes and ticks. Mosquitoes thrive in warm, stagnant pools of freshwater, while ticks thrive in warm, humid climates. Mosquitoes are vectors for such diseases as malaria and West Nile virus. Ticks are the leading vector for Lyme Disease.
- The swamps, lakes, and wetlands of the Southeast and Upper Midwest are most at-risk for mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses.
- More frequent droughts and increasingly high temperatures increase the frequency and severity of wildfires. Wildfires put people at risk for burns, injuries, and smoke inhalation. Smoke is also a harmful air pollutant.
- The Great Plains are particularly at risk for wildfires.
- Mental Health and Well-being
The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health: Health Effects by Region
The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health: Report: Medical Alert! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health