Climate Change: A Global Threat to Cardiopulmonary Health


People with the cardiopulmonary disease are among the most susceptible to death and disease as a result of climate change. In this paper, Mary Rice M.D. —a member of our Affiliated Faculty—and her research team, review the global human health consequences of projected changes in climate, with a focus on cardiopulmonary health.

The paper explores how many of the coming health effects attributed to climate change will disproportionally affect people from economically disadvantaged parts of the world—people who contribute relatively little to CO2 emissions. The paper also discusses the financial implications of climate change solutions from a public health perspective.

The authors argue that we are facing a problem that can be mitigated with existing tools. The value of the immediate health benefits that would be gained by reducing CO2 emissions would outweigh the costs of mitigation. The long-term health benefits of avoiding death and disease due to temperature extremes, air pollution, pollen, floods, droughts, storms, desertification, and malnutrition will justify climate change mitigation from an economic standpoint.


Mary B. Rice, George D. Thurston, John R. Balmes, and Kent E. Pinkerton "Climate Change. A Global Threat to Cardiopulmonary Health", American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 189, No. 5 (2014), pp. 512-519.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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