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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Feb;107 Suppl 1:169-79.

Public health consequences of global climate change in the United States--some regions may suffer disproportionately.

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  • 1The Waste Policy Institute, Arlington, Virginia and The Institute for Global Risk Research, LLC, Bethesda, MD 20817, USA. tigerr@cpcug.org

Abstract

Current risk assessments of the likely regional health impacts of global climate change (GCC) are hindered by two factors. First, dose-response relationships between weather parameters and many of the likely health effects have not been developed, and second, reliable estimates of future regional climates across the United States are still beyond the scope of current modeling efforts. Consequently, probabilistic risk estimates of most of the likely regional health impacts of GCC have such a high degree of uncertainty that their usefulness to health officials dealing with regional issues is very limited. With the numerous pressures on today's health care systems, it is understandable that the possible consequences of GCC have received scant attention from regional health care decision makers. Indeed, the consensus among this community appears to be that any increases in health effects associated with GCC will be easily handled by the current health care system. However, such a position may be naive as the potential exists that an unequal distribution of such effects could overwhelm some regions, whereas others may feel little or no impact. This review of the likely regional impacts of GCC has been structured as a semianalytical look at this issue of distributional effects. Because of the lack of dose-response information and reliable estimates of future regional climates, however, it takes a historical perspective. That is, it assumes that the quality and quantity of health risks a region faces under GCC will be directly related to its recent history of health risks from warm weather/climate-related diseases as well as to the size, characteristics, and distribution of the sensitive subpopulations currently residing within its borders. The approach is semiquantitative; however, it uses national data gathered on a regional level and as such should only be used to generate a hypothesis rather than test it. When applied to the United States, its outcome leads to the hypothesis that if indeed history repeats itself, some states or regions may be more greatly affected by GCC than others, not only because historically they are more prone to summer weather/climate-related diseases, but also because they contain a greater proportion of the sensitive subpopulations in the United States.

PMID:
10229716
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1566351
Free PMC Article
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