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Narrative Review

Vol. 12 No. 1 (2009)

Beyond the News: Health Risks of Climate Change

  • Kristie L Ebi
November 12, 2020


Climate change is affecting the health of millions of people through altering the geographic distribution and incidence of climate-sensitive health outcomes, including through injuries, illnesses, and deaths due to extreme weather events, food-, water-, and vectorborne diseases, air pollution, aeroallergens, and malnutrition (1). The magnitude of impacts is projected to increase as the climate continues to change. The scope and scale of projected impacts mean that climate change will touch the professional and personal lives of many public health and health care professionals. Avoiding, preparing for, and effectively responding to the health risks of climate change will require broad engagement of scientists, decision-makers, and the public. Achieving this engagement means that increased scientific literacy is needed of the causes and implications of climate change for human health.

There are growing numbers of assessments of the potential health impacts of climate change (1-4) and summaries for various audiences (5). Instead of summarizing current knowledge of the causes and consequences for human health of anthropogenic climate change, this paper will highlight a few issues that may help with understanding the human health impacts of climate change.


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  7. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  8. Ebi KL, Smith J, Burton I, Scheraga J. Some lessons learned from public health on the process of adaptation. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 2006;11:607-620. doi:10/1007/s11027-006-3257-7.
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  11. Fleury M, Charron DF, Holt JD, Allen OB, Maarouf AR. A time series analysis of the relationship of ambient temperature and common bacterial enteric infections in two Canadian provinces. Int J Biometeorol 2006: DOI 10.1007/s00484-006-0028-9.
  12. Nakicenovic N, Alcamo J, Davis G, de Vries B, Fenhann J, Gaffin S, et al., editors. Special Report on Emissions Scenarios. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


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