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Global Climate Change: Federal Research on Possible Human Health Effects

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Congressional rept.

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The average global temperature has risen approximately 0.6 degrees C over the past century. Global mean temperatures are projected by recent computer models to increase by 1.8 degrees C to as much as 7.1 degrees C over the next 100 years. It appears likely that global mean temperature increases will continue, and projections into the future predict a variety of possible related impacts, such as more volatile weather patterns, increased incidence of hot spells, and changing precipitation patterns that may include more intense rainfall patterns, as well as changing and intensified drought patterns. Extensive research is underway concerning the links between climate and human health however, much of this research is being done for reasons unrelated to climate change per se. This report does not address the underlying question of climate change itself. Rather, it identifies the array of climate-relevant human health research and discusses the interconnections. Approximately 57 million each year since FY2005 supports climate change research at the NIH. Health effects research topics are wide-ranging, including studying skin and eye damage from increased ultraviolet radiation, effects of damaged water infrastructure, dynamics of recovering from disasters, and ways to strengthen the capacity in developing countries to deal with infectious diseases. Three conclusions are common to several studies on possible health effects of climate change the infirm, the elderly, and the poor may be disproportionately impacted if climate change results in more severe andor more frequent episodes of heat waves and air pollution the risks of vector- and water-borne diseases may increase with global warming, but countries and regions with adequate sanitation, surveillance, and public health systems may not see significant increases in disease incidence or distribution and further research is needed to better understand the complex linkages between climate and health.

Subject Categories:

  • Meteorology
  • Government and Political Science
  • Medicine and Medical Research

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