The National Academies

Rise in Diseases Associated With Climate Shift

By Lisa Pickoff-White

November 22 - The World Health Organization recently estimated that Earth’s warming climate over the last 30 years may have contributed to more than 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses annually. Warmer temperatures and heavy rain create breeding grounds for illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea, and others. In South Asia, a serious outbreak of dengue fever has infected 12,000 people and killed at least 1,000 this year.

Researchers have also documented an association between rising temperatures and deaths stemming from air pollution, including a study from Columbia University on smog-related deaths in New York City. Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment issued a report this month analyzing worst-case scenarios of extreme weather affecting the global economy.

The National Academies have several reports on what causes climate change and its impacts on human health. Under the Weather: Climate, Ecosystems, and Infectious Disease examines the possible connections between climate events and infectious disease outbreaks and identifies what we need to know to confirm these linkages and develop an early warning system based on climate signals. From Monsoons to Microbes: Understanding the Ocean's Role in Human Health explores various ways in which the ocean affects human health through its influence on climate, natural disasters, infectious diseases, and toxic red tides.

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