The debate is over; nearly all scientists (and politicians) agree that climate change is real and is the result of human activity. Experts also agree that the consequences are serious and far-reaching. All too often, these consequences are framed in terms of the threat to wildlife and the environment. But climate change also threatens human health, reports the March 2009 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.
Climate change can affect health in many ways. Heat-related illnesses and deaths will increase as the earth warms up. Hurricanes, cyclones, floods, and wildfires are expected to increase, causing injury and death. Many insects thrive in warm weather, meaning potential for more insect-borne diseases, including West Nile virus, viral encephalitis, and Lyme disease. Tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever could also spread to temperate zones like the United States.
Climate change is already producing health problems in the United States. Ozone layer depletion has increased exposure to ultraviolet B radiation, which contributes to skin cancer and cataracts. Global warming has promoted the growth of ragweed—another reason for the increase in asthma, as well as hay fever and allergies.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.