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Climate change and health
October 5, 2017
The complex nature of climate change and its environmental and social manifestations result in diverse risks to human health. Our current, rather skewed knowledge of climate–health relationships has come from epidemiologic studies of health risks in relation to differences in temperature and from quasi-cyclical climatic events. However, most of the health risks arise from climatic influences on environmental systems and social conditions that affect food yields, water supplies, the stability of infectious disease patterns, and the integrity of natural and human-built protection against natural disasters (including forest cover, windbreaks, mangroves, vulnerable constructed seawalls, and urban water-drainage systems) and from the adverse health consequences of social disruption, displacement of communities, and conflict situations.
Global climate change is part of the larger Anthropocene syndrome of human-induced global environmental changes. These include land degradation, ocean acidification and disruptions, depletions of the stratospheric ozone concentration, soil fertility, fresh-water resources, biodiversity stocks and ecosystem functioning, and global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Greenhouse emissions from fossil fuel–based power generation and transport and from the agriculture and mining sectors also increase the heat-retaining capacity of the lower atmosphere, resulting in global warming. In addition, deforestation and ocean saturation have added to greenhouse warming by reducing the capacity of terrestrial and marine environments to absorb extra carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere. Also contributing to such warming are any ongoing natural variations in climate caused by cosmologic and geologic influences.