Monthly Archives: March 2015

Global Climate Change: Driver of Infectious Diseases?

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Sec Sebelius - WHO assembly 2012

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addresses the 65th World Health Assembly (2012). Credit: United States Mission Geneva, CC BY-ND 2.0

The impacts of global climate change on human health and well-being are undeniably alarming. Safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter are threatened by rising sea levels and severe weather events. Heat waves dramatically increase death rates not only from heat strokes, but also from complications arising from cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular diseases. According to the WHO, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. Unfortunately, these estimates take into account only a subset of the possible health impacts and assume continued economic growth and health progress. The global situation is likely to be much worse. Continue reading

Unexplored Links: Climate Change and Environmental Contaminants

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Greenland ice melt figure

Rapid surface ice melt in Greenland (July 2012). Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY 2.0

Climate change is happening here and now, and the rate of change is also speeding up, as demonstrated by a recent study. The most dramatic effects are clearly visible all around us—shifting precipitation patterns, sea level rise, ocean acidification, shrinking Arctic sea ice, melting of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, and amplified occurrence of wildfires, floods, heat waves, and droughts. Climate change is also a threat multiplier—the environmental fallout it causes can exacerbate political instability in the world’s most dangerous regions and increase the chances of armed conflict. In addition to these conspicuously damaging effects, there are some others that are causing alarm, although not discussed as often and not as clearly discernible at this time: climate change may alter the release, dispersal, and toxic effect of chemicals in the environment, potentially resulting in dangerous levels of human exposure and deleterious consequences for ecosystems. Continue reading