Global Climate Change Research Program Report

Profound Public Health Impacts Identified

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the U.S Global Change Research Program deliver a report every 4 years to analyze the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy demand, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity.  The statutory charge for the report is to “… inform decision-makers, utility and natural resource managers, public health officials, emergency planners, and other stakeholders by providing a thorough examination of the effects of climate change on the United States”.  The 2018 report was issued on the day after Thanksgiving. 

The Report issued last week focuses on the elements in their statutory mandate for 10 regions and 18 topics.  Chapter 14 focuses on public health.  Many of the public health challenges and impacts in the report are things readily observable today.  For example, one of the acute is the public health and policy struggles this year will be surrounding prioritization, use and conservation of increasingly limited water supplies here in Arizona.   As the Colorado River basin continues to have less snow pack and earlier melting- there’s no doubt that allocating a permanently reduced water supply.  We’re likely to see these negotiations play out at the national and state level in the coming months.

At first, I was planning to write my own summary of the public health chapter- but the Executive Summary of that chapter does a pretty good job- so I’ll paste that section for you instead:

Climate-related changes in weather patterns and associated changes in air, water, food, and the environment are affecting the health and well-being of the American people, causing injuries, illnesses, and death. Increasing temperatures, increases in the frequency and intensity of heat waves (since the 1960s), changes in precipitation patterns (especially increases in heavy precipitation), and sea level rise can affect our health through multiple pathways. Changes in weather and climate can degrade air and water quality; affect the geographic range, seasonality, and intensity of transmission of infectious diseases through food, water, and disease-carrying vectors (such as mosquitoes and ticks); and increase stresses that affect mental health and well-being.

Changing weather patterns also interact with demographic and socioeconomic factors, as well as underlying health trends, to influence the extent of the consequences of climate change for individuals and communities. While all Americans are at risk of experiencing adverse climate-related health outcomes, some populations are disproportionately vulnerable.

The risks of climate change for human health are expected to increase in the future, with the extent of the resulting impacts dependent on the effectiveness of adaptation efforts and on the magnitude and pattern of future climate change. 

Obviously, there is allot more in the report that really requires a deeper dive.  The report is certainly worth book marking in your Favorites section for reference as you conduct your public health work.