The potential withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement has broad implications for society and the environment. While much attention has concentrated upon melting glaciers, rising sea levels and conflicts over scarce resources, another area represents a major cause for concern: human health.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global climate change has direct health impacts tied to changes in the frequency of extreme weather events including heat, drought and intense rain. Additionally, increasing temperatures alter ecosystem dynamics, making it easier for mosquitoes and other organisms to come into contact with human populations and spread infectious disease (Smith et al. 2014).
Climate change also undermines improvements in the management of existing disease outbreaks. This is the case in South Africa, a country where I have conducted extensive research over the past decade. As I detail in my book "States of Disease," the South African government has become more aggressive in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic while establishing itself as a leader in the testing and treatment of HIV-positive individuals. As a result of its efforts, the government has reduced the likelihood of patients progressing from HIV disease to AIDS, thereby extending the lives of many for years or decades.