Climate change could have far-reaching consequences for human health across the 21st century. At the same time, development choices will alter underlying vulnerability to these risks, affecting the magnitude and pattern of impacts. The current and projected human health risks of climate change are diverse and wide-ranging, potentially altering the burden of any health outcome sensitive to weather or climate. Climate variability and change can affect morbidity and mortality from extreme weather and climate events, and from changes in air quality arising from changing concentrations of ozone, particulate matter, or aeroallergens. Altering weather patterns and sea level rise also may facilitate changes in the geographic range, seasonality, and incidence of selected infectious diseases in some regions, such as malaria moving into highland areas in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Changes in water availability and agricultural productivity could affect undernutrition, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa. These risks are not independent, but will interact in complex ways with risks in other sectors. Policies and programs need to explicitly take climate change into account to facilitate sustainable and resilient societies that effectively prepare for, manage, and recover from climate-related hazards.
Kristie L. Ebi is director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment, and Professor in the Departments of Global Health and of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington. She has been conducting research and practice on the health risks of climate variability and change for twenty years, including on extreme events, thermal stress, foodborne safety and security, and vectorborne diseases. She focuses on understanding sources of vulnerability, estimating current and future health risks of climate change, and designing adaptation policies and measures to reduce the risks of climate change in multi-stressor environments. She has supported multiple countries in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific in assessing their vulnerability and implementing adaptation measures, in collaboration with WHO, UNDP, USAID, and others. She also co-chairs the International Committee On New Integrated Climate change assessment Scenarios (ICONICS), facilitating development of new climate change scenarios. Dr. Ebi’s scientific training includes an M.S. in toxicology and a Ph.D. and a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology, and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has edited fours books on aspects of climate change and has more than 180 publications.