When most people think of climate change, they imagine a lone polar bear standing on a melting ice cap. But the effects of climate change go far beyond that, causing many different health problems and contributing to a range of social and economic inequalities.
Climate change causes or exacerbates many health threats, such as extreme heat, flooding, food and water insecurity, disease-carrying insects, and poor air quality. It also increases the intensity and frequency of some events, such as drought and hurricanes, and expands or changes the geographic area where certain health threats occur.
The respiratory impact of climate change on human health includes increased rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases from higher temperatures, weather variability, air pollution, wildfires, and dust storms. The changing climate makes it harder to breathe, increasing the risk of death, hospitalizations, and missed school and work days. It can also increase allergens from plants and animals, such as pollen and molds, and it contributes to worse air quality with high levels of ozone and fine particulates.
Some groups are at a greater risk of the negative impacts of climate change on human health, including people in low-income or disadvantaged countries and communities. These groups are often those that contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions, but are impacted the most by climate change. They are also those that are most likely to face barriers to accessing health services, and they have the least resources to cope with the effects of climate change.