Climate Change & Health

By: Rachel Chinn

Climate Change above the mountains near the lake

Climate Change & Public HealthHow climate change is affecting public health

There is scientific agreement that the global climate is changing. This year closes out what is expected to be the hottest decade ever recorded, according to a new report from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization. A press release for the report claims that the past decade was one of “exceptional global heat,” and states that 2019 is likely to be the “second or third warmest year on record,” because of “greenhouse gases from human activities.” 

Global climate changes like rising surface temperatures, melting ice and snow, rising sea levels, and increasing climate variability are expected to have substantial impacts on human health.

The climate has always been known to affect human health. Heat causes hyperthermia, cold causes hypothermia. Droughts cause famine, floods result in injuries, displacement and death. Hurricanes, tornadoes and forest fires are becoming more of a regular occurrence. The WMO provisional statement on the State of the Global Climate, outlines how climate change has intensified weather patterns, creating more frequent “high impact events,” such as floods, drought, heatwaves, wildfires and tropical cyclones – and how such events affect people. On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and abnormal weather.

In the past year, rainfall in the central United States was the highest on record, while wildfires raged across the West. While scientific understanding of all the various effects of climate change is still emerging, there is a pressing need to prepare for all the health risks climate change brings. Acting on climate, both to reduce warming as well as to prepare our community to manage and treat associated health risks is something that public health departments are working hard towards.

For a list of disaster preparedness resources visit: