The potential health costs of climate change are huge, report finds

Originally published on November 7, 2019 on Yale Climate Connections.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Climate change can make people sick, and it can even be deadly.

“Our warming planet is putting millions of us at risk for heat-related illness and even death,” says Kim Knowlton of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That heat contributes to urban air pollution. That’s from ground-level ozone, from wildfire smoke, from more pollen in the air.”

Climate change can also cause dangerous floods, increase the spread of disease, and more.

Knowlton co-authored a study analyzing 10 events in 2012, including wildfires, a hurricane, and a West Nile virus outbreak. All are the sorts of events projected to become more frequent or severe as the climate warms.

More than 900 people died as a result of those events. Almost 40,000 visited the emergency room or were hospitalized.

The costs in human suffering are hard to calculate, but some of the financial costs are measurable.

The study found that healthcare and lost wages from just the 10 events in that one year cost $1.6 billion. And unless carbon pollution is sharply reduced, the financial and human costs will grow.