finding 18.4 : key-message-18-4

Changing climate threatens the health and well-being of people in the Northeast through more extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality, and sea level rise (very high confidence). These environmental changes are expected to lead to health-related impacts and costs, including additional deaths, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and a lower quality of life (very high confidence). Health impacts are expected to vary by location, age, current health, and other characteristics of individuals and communities (very high confidence).



This finding is from chapter 18 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

It is understood that authors for a regional assessment must have scientific and regional credibility in the topical areas. Each author must also be willing and interested in serving in this capacity. Author selection for the Northeast chapter proceeded as follows:

First, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released a Call for Public Nominations. Interested scientists were either nominated or self-nominated and their names placed into a database. The concurrent USGCRP Call for Public Nominations also solicited scientists to serve as chapter leads. Both lists were reviewed by the USGCRP with input from the coordinating lead author (CLA) and from the National Climate Assessment (NCA) Steering Committee. All regional chapter lead (CL) authors were selected by the USGCRP at the same time. The CLA and CL then convened to review the author nominations list as a “first cut” in identifying potential chapter authors for this chapter. Using their knowledge of the Northeast’s landscape and challenges, the CLA and CL used the list of national chapter topics that would be most relevant for the region. That topical list was associated with scientific expertise and a subset of the author list.

In the second phase, the CLA and CL used both the list of nominees as well as other scientists from around the region to build an author team that was representative of the Northeast’s geography, institutional affiliation (federal agencies and academic and research institutions), depth of subject matter expertise, and knowledge of selected regional topics. Eleven authors were thus identified by December 2016, and the twelfth author was invited in April 2017 to better represent tribal knowledge in the chapter.

Lastly, the authors were contacted by the CL to determine their level of interest and willingness to serve as experts on the region's topics of water resources, agriculture and natural resources, oceans and marine ecosystems, coastal issues, health, and the built environment and urban issues.

On the due diligence of determining the region’s topical areas of focus

The first two drafts of the Northeast chapter were structured around the themes of water resources, agriculture and natural resources, oceans and marine ecosystems, coastal issues, health, and the built environment and urban issues. During the USGCRP-sponsored Regional Engagement Workshop held in Boston on February 10, 2017, feedback was solicited from approximately 150 online participants (comprising transportation officials, coastal managers, urban planners, city managers, fisheries managers, forest managers, state officials, and others) around the Northeast and other parts of the United States, on both the content of these topical areas and important focal areas for the region. Additional inputs were solicited from other in-person meetings such as the ICNet workshop and American Association of Geographers meetings, both held in April 2017. All feedback was then compiled with the lessons learned from the USGCRP CLA-CL meeting in Washington, DC, also held in April 2017. On April 28, 2017, the author team met in Burlington, Vermont, and reworked the chapter’s structure around the risk-based framing of interest to 1) changing seasonality, 2) coastal/ocean resources, 3) rural communities and livelihoods, 4) urban interconnectedness, and 5) adaptation.

Description of evidence base:

Extreme storms and temperatures, overall warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality, and sea level rise are all associated with adverse health outcomes from heat,6b3cd0ec-1e3e-42e8-ad82-5c12ed7ab0e8,e65c896d-395c-4347-80ed-64af1333f3a7,b151fd56-2d07-47fb-88df-173212cd5059,028a4c4b-3a7f-47b3-8a78-432fd7840f21,33b39dea-d868-4ce9-9605-1fdfd3355811,aa10dde0-072c-459a-ab20-65ba830d43bd,d7ef401f-6a34-4410-ab1e-4690f3c4d161 poor air quality,54a66159-1675-43bb-b5d3-a9b7f283e4de,70c0501a-5944-49f1-9749-2cc083802da1,59666474-282e-4dea-b833-acb24f736eaf disease-transmitting vectors,953d1436-e0d0-426c-8dcc-68e5c02eef30,5a091036-8e68-41b5-a63a-ff33b8fc1889,6c4943e6-2a76-4989-b80e-8b4d9bacd78a contaminated food and water,d746e578-c6fd-4b73-8a3c-d91365668348,bcbd5def-bcf4-454a-b744-ff131acdbf39,2312e80f-cec5-445e-aad0-ce60c9ea29e2,d03f5405-42ed-46bd-9f7f-23ba5f71bdf3 harmful algal blooms,59d0bcfb-805b-472d-b6fe-3b70bacc3d25 and traumatic stress or health service disruption.15df801e-f052-4327-9b08-47c13d894ea7,c7bb5988-e9ff-41a3-87fd-5d0a12f50fe7 The underlying susceptibility of populations determines whether or not there are health impacts from an exposure and the severity of such impacts.d7ef401f-6a34-4410-ab1e-4690f3c4d161,bb6cb91e-fd58-4222-8d22-023901f265eb

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Uncertainty remains in projections of the magnitude of future changes in particulate matter, humidity, and wildfires and how these changes may influence health risks. For example, health effects of future extreme heat may be exacerbated by future changes in absolute or relative humidity.

Health impacts are ultimately determined by not just the environmental hazard but also the amount of exposure, size and underlying susceptibility of the exposed population, and other factors such as health insurance coverage and access to timely healthcare services. In projecting future health risks, researchers acknowledge these challenges and use different analytic approaches to address this uncertainty or note it as a limitation.028a4c4b-3a7f-47b3-8a78-432fd7840f21,e805bfdc-c4c2-43a0-b2e5-5a66945c74e4,59666474-282e-4dea-b833-acb24f736eaf

In addition, there is a paucity of literature that considers the joint or cumulative impacts on health of multiple climatic hazards. Additional areas where the literature base is limited include specific health impacts related to different types of climate-related migration, the impact of climatic factors on mental health, and the specific timing and geographic range of shifting disease-carrying vectors.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is very high confidence that extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality, and sea level rise threaten the health and well-being of people in the Northeast. There is very high confidence that these climate-related environmental changes will lead to additional adverse health-related impacts and costs, including premature deaths, more emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and lower quality of life. There is very high confidence that climate-related health impacts will vary by location, age, current health, and other characteristics of individuals and communities.

Regions Covered

Related NASA GCMD keywords

References :

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