According to a recent report published by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, climate change is becoming a serious public health enemy.
"The changes in our climate are creating conditions that harm human health through extreme weather events, reduced air and water quality, intense heat waves, spread of vector-borne diseases, and other mechanisms," said Mona Sarfaty, the director of MSCCH and the director of the Program for Climate and Health at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, in a statement. The consortium represents more than 400,000 American physicians—more than half of all U.S. physicians. Many of these medical professionals, Sarfaty said, "know firsthand the harmful health effects of climate change on patients." She continued, "While climate change threatens the health of every American, some people are more vulnerable and are most likely to be harmed, including: infants and children; pregnant women; older adults; people with disabilities; people with preexisting or chronic medical conditions, including mental illnesses; people with limited means; indigenous peoples; and those throughout the United States who face regional vulnerabilities."
The report highlighted three specific ways climate change harms human health:
- Direct health harms, including respiratory ailments worsened by air pollution and longer allergy seasons, as well as injuries and deaths caused by extreme weather events like floods, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires.
- The proliferation of diseases through insects carrying Lyme disease or Zika virus, and through contaminated water and food.
- Mental health effects, particularly among survivors of extreme weather events, who can experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even increases in suicidal thoughts and behavior.