White House report assesses climate change impacts

Obama Administration releases new scientific assessment of climate change impact on human health in U.S.

Today, the Obama Administration released a new final report — "The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment" — that describes what is known about the impacts of climate change on public health and the confidence with which these effects are known.

Developed over three years by approximately 100 experts in climate change science and public health — including representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics & Space Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — the assessment reinforces that climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people not just in the future but right now.

As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats, creating new public health challenges and affecting more people in more places, a fact sheet from the White House said.

A few examples of the increased health risks found in the assessment include:

* Air pollution and airborne allergens will likely increase, worsening allergy and asthma conditions.

* Extreme heat can be expected to cause an increase in the number of premature deaths each summer from thousands to tens of thousands, which will outpace projected decreases in deaths from extreme cold.

* Warmer winter and spring temperatures are projected to lead to an earlier annual onset of Lyme disease cases in the eastern U.S. and a generally northward expansion of ticks capable of carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

* An increase in the risks of water-related illnesses is expected. Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events and increased water temperatures will increasingly compromise recreational waters, shellfish harvesting waters and sources of drinking water, increasing risks of waterborne illness.

* Rising temperatures and changes in weather extremes associated with climate change is expected to increase the exposure of foods to certain pathogens and toxins.

* The largest health impact of climate change will be on vulnerable populations.

* Extreme weather and other events related to climate change will affect health by exacerbating underlying medical conditions, increasing exposure to foodborne and waterborne illness risks and disrupting infrastructure, including power, water, transportation and communication systems.

Detailed information on the Climate Assessment can be found on the White House website.

Several of the agencies involved also issued a joint blog on the report.

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