The Hidden Health Costs of Climate Change

The Hidden Health Costs of Climate Change

limate change kills. Since 2000, nearly four million people worldwide have lost their lives due to floods, wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather events that have been linked to a steadily warming planet, according to a recent estimate in the journal Nature. That sweeping number can make it hard for any of us to grasp how the problem is touching health in our own small part of the world. Now, a new study in Nature Medicine provides some of that granular insight for people living in the U.S., exploring how climate-linked disasters affect visits to hospital emergency departments in counties nationwide, as well as related deaths in the aftermath of the disasters. The numbers, the researchers found, are troubling, with the hardest-hit communities showing mortality rates as much as 3.8 times higher than those in surrounding areas.

“This could be a significant strain for hospitals and emergency departments, especially if they are damaged, lack power, or are short-staffed,” says Dr. Renee Salas, an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the study.

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