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Public Health and Global Climate Disruption

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Abstract

Climate change presents a significant challenge to global health. This paper examines the health impacts of climate change from extreme weather events, temperature changes, rising sea levels and changes in precipitation. These health impacts include heat-related illnesses and deaths, air pollution-related health effects, allergic diseases, infectious diseases, malnutrition, and disasters associated with extreme weather-related health effects such as hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, fires, heavy precipitation, storms and flooding. Most populations will be impacted by climate change in the next decades, putting peoples’ lives and wellbeing at risk. Vulnerable populations across the globe will be impacted disproportionately due to climate change. It is populations that are often least responsible for climate change that experience the greatest adverse impacts, raising important moral issues of equity and fairness. In addition to reviewing the literature on the health impacts of climate change, this paper will examine issues of inequity across vulnerable populations and generations due to climate change, the health co-benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation, and potential options for adaptation to increasingly extreme weather events.

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Correspondence to Jonathan A. Patz MD, MPH.

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Key Words

  • Global climate disruption
  • public health
  • climate change
  • health impacts
  • disease
  • vulnerable populations
  • equity