finding 14.1 : key-message-14-1

The health and well-being of Americans are already affected by climate change (very high confidence), with the adverse health consequences projected to worsen with additional climate change (likely, high confidence). Climate change affects human health by altering exposures to heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme events; vector-, food- and waterborne infectious diseases; changes in the quality and safety of air, food, and water; and stresses to mental health and well-being.

This finding is from chapter 14 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

The chapter evaluated the scientific evidence of the health risks of climate change, focusing primarily on the literature published since the cut off date (approximately fall 2015) of the U.S. Climate and Health Assessment.f1e633d5-070a-4a7d-935b-a2281a0c9cb6 A comprehensive literature search was performed by federal contractors in December 2016 for studies published since January 1, 2014, using PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science. An Excel file containing 2,477 peer-reviewed studies was provided to the author team for it to consider in this assessment. In addition to the literature review, the authors considered recommended studies submitted in comments by the public, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and federal agencies. The focus of the literature was on health risks in the United States, with limited citations from other countries providing insights into risks Americans are or will likely face with climate change. A full description of the search strategy can be found at The chapter authors were chosen based on their expertise in the health risks of climate change. Teleconferences were held with interested researchers and practitioners in climate change and health and with authors in other chapters of this Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4).

The U.S. Climate and Health Assessmentf1e633d5-070a-4a7d-935b-a2281a0c9cb6 did not consider adaptation or mitigation, including economic costs and benefits, so the literature cited includes research from earlier years where additional information was relevant to this assessment.

For NCA4, Air Quality was added as a report chapter. Therefore, while Key Messages in this Health chapter include consideration of threats to human health from worsened air quality, the assessment of these risks and impacts are covered in Chapter 13: Air Quality. Similarly, co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are covered in the Air Quality chapter.

Description of evidence base:

Multiple lines of evidence demonstrate statistically significant associations between temperature, precipitation, and other variables and adverse climate-sensitive health outcomes, indicating sensitivity to weather patterns.f1e633d5-070a-4a7d-935b-a2281a0c9cb6 These lines of evidence also demonstrate that vulnerability varies across sub-populations and geographic areas; populations with higher vulnerability include poor people in high-income regions, minority groups, women, children, the disabled, those living alone, those with poor health status, Indigenous people, older adults, outdoor workers, people displaced because of weather and climate, low-income residents that lack a social network, poorly planned communities, communities disproportionately burdened by poor environmental quality, the disenfranchised, those with less access to healthcare, and those with limited financial resources to rebound from disasters.b9638744-8ff8-41bd-a741-27b2fda9face,409668a7-2e7b-461b-953a-ac0d6fb90725,289728b3-ae8b-417e-920e-96af1a5e64b3,cdf943a1-008a-4b9a-93d4-d0e49df114ae,f85a7ac1-b6ad-49b6-ba44-881259d28775,dae0a009-a0ca-498e-ab92-12d1bd644db7 Recent research confirms projections that the magnitude and pattern of risks are expected to increase as climate change continues across the century.75cf1c0b-cc62-4ca4-96a7-082afdfe2ab1

New information and remaining uncertainties:

The role of non-climate factors, including socioeconomic conditions, population characteristics, and human behavior, as well as health sector policies and practices, will continue to make it challenging to attribute injuries, illnesses, and deaths to climate change. Inadequate consideration of these factors creates uncertainties in projections of the magnitude and pattern of health risks over coming decades. Certainty is higher in near-term projections where there is greater understanding of future trends.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is very high confidence that climate change is affecting the health of Americans. There is high confidence that climate-related health risks, without additional adaptation and mitigation, will likely increase with additional climate change.

This finding was derived from scenario rcp_4_5
This finding was derived from scenario rcp_8_5

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