As world leaders gather on Monday for the Climate Action Summit at the UN General Assembly, it is sadly clear that the prospect of rising global temperatures and sea levels has failed to generate a sufficient sense of urgency around climate change. What might spur leaders to action, if it were better understood, is the enormous threat that climate change already poses to human health.
Climate change exacerbates chronic and contagious disease, worsens food and water shortages, increases the risk of pandemics, and aggravates mass displacement. The broad environmental effects of climate change have long been discussed as long-term risks; what’s clear now is that the health effects are worse than anticipated—and that they’re already being felt.
The dangerous health effects of climate change begin with the emissions that cause it. Black carbon, methane, and nitrogen oxides are powerful drivers of global warming, and, along with other
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