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Climate Change and Health

Climate Impacts Raise Health Risks

Scientists warn that changes in climate can affect the frequency of severe weather events, the availability of clean air and water, the adequacy of food supplies and the occurrence of some infectious diseases.

Certain people are more vulnerable to emerging climate change impacts, including those with existing physical or mental illness, children and older adults, those who work outdoors, and those living along the coast or in an area prone to flooding.

Climate change can lead to weather conditions and longer term changes that are associated with health hazards such as:

  • Heat waves that can cause serious health problems such as heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke. They can also exacerbate existing heart, lung, or other chronic conditions that some people have, increasing the likelihood that these individuals might get sick. Be energy smart with air conditioners. Set the temperature to 78° and turn off air conditioning when nobody is home.

  • Warmer temperatures that allow for insects, some of which carry disease, to expand their range. In a warming climate, infectious diseases transmitted by mosquito and tick bites (such as Lyme disease or West Nile Virus) may appear in previously unaffected parts of New York. Warmer temperatures also increase pollen and air pollutants like ozone.

  • Unpredictable precipitation patterns such as drought and severe flooding that may directly cause injury or death, and also can affect drinking water supplies. Excessive rainfall and flooding can damage homes, schools, and workplaces to create less healthy conditions, such as dampness, which promotes growth of mold, dust mites, and other pests. Drought and flooding can impact water systems, reducing the availability of water for drinking and sanitation.

  • Drought, flooding and unseasonal heat and frost that disrupt agriculture. If these conditions become more frequent, they can interfere with successful food production. Altered conditions for food production could promote emerging pathogens, require new crop and livestock species, alter use of pesticides and veterinary medicines, or affect the mechanisms through which contaminants move from the environment into food.

New York responds to the climate challenge

The New York State Department of Health (NSYDOH) is partnering with other local, state, and national groups and agencies to assess potential health issues associated with climate changes. For detailed information on health impacts associated with climate change, see NYSDOH's website (link at right).

Two New York State-sponsored reports include broad examinations of how climate change will affect New York:

  • The New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report developed by the New York State Climate Action Council, was published in 2011. A technical work group for climate change adaptation examined the health impacts of climate change and outlined strategies to promote adaptation and resilience.

  • Responding to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) was published in 2011 as part of the Interim Report. It provided a basis for public health adaptation strategies, with case studies and other detailed information. A link to this report appears at right.

New York State is involved in many other activities that have a public health component. See the NYSERDA Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in New York State.

For questions, contact New York State Department of Health at: climatehealth@health.ny.gov