Climate Change May Impact the Health of Those Living on the Gulf Coast

First Posted: Aug 15, 2015 08:42 AM EDT

Climate change may be impacting your health in major ways. Scientists have taken a closer look at how the changing climate will impact public health in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Climate variability and change present substantial threats to physical and mental health, and may also create social instability, potentially leading to increased conflict, violence, and widespread migration away from areas that can no longer provide sufficient food, water and shelter for the current populations. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to impacts of climate change due to hazards such as changing water use patterns, shoreline erosion, sea level rise and storm surge.

"The science of climate change and the threat to human and population health is irrefutable-and the threat is evolving quickly," said Irwin Redlener, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough. We need to simultaneously develop and deploy ways of mitigating the impact and adapting to the consequences of this environmental disaster."

The U.S. Gulf Coast is predicted to experience increases in extreme temperatures, sea level rise, and possibly fewer but more intense hurricanes. This is likely to make the Gulf Coast less hospitable and more dangerous for its residents.

"Climate change may amplify existing public health impacts, such as heat-related morbidity and mortality, malnutrition resulting from droughts, and injury and deaths following exposure to floods," said Elisa Petkova of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. "Although future trends are difficult to project, climate change may also facilitate the re-introduction of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever to the Gulf Coast and other vulnerable coastal regions."

The findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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