The impact of climate change on health

Heat-related illness and death, increases in infectious diseases, injuries and deaths after violent storms—these are some of the serious potential human health impacts of climate change discussed at a recent Climate & Health Meeting.

The one-day meeting drew more than 300 attendees to the Carter Center in Atlanta. The Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) was part of a coalition of stakeholders in the public health and climate communities, including former Vice President Al Gore, that joined together to host the meeting after the original conference on the topic—a three-day summit cosponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association—was canceled, shortly before the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Conference organizers urged public health and climate experts to keep working to find solutions to the dangerous health consequences of global warming, even as the Trump administration appears to deny its impact and, sometimes, even its existence. Their overarching message was that if climate change isn’t slowed, there could be dramatic increases in infectious diseases, metabolic illnesses, and other maladies.

Harvard Chan School speakers at the event included Ashish Jha, HGHI director and K.T. Li Professor of Health Policy; Samuel Myers, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health; and Lise Van Susteren, an advisory board member of the School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.

Jha spoke about global warming’s potential to increase the spread of infectious disease. “Walls will not keep pathogens out,” he said in a February 16, 2017 STAT article. “No borders are going to protect us. That’s what awaits us unless we act.”

Read the STAT article: At a resurrected climate conference, concerns loom that CDC scientists may be silenced

Read a Forbes article about the climate meeting: Perspectives From Inside the Climate Change-Human Health Conference That Rose From The Dead

Watch a webcast of the climate and health meeting

Learn more

Climate change and health (This Week in Health podcast)

Putting a human face on climate change (Harvard Chan School feature)

Climate Change and Health (News from Harvard Chan School)