Bitter Pill: The High Health Costs of Climate Change

September 18, 2019

We know that climate change is already contributing to dangerous heat waves, infectious disease outbreaks, extreme weather events, and wildfires, among other climate-fueled events—and that these events cost billions of dollars in lost lives, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions. The projected health and economic burden of climate change will be enormous if carbon pollution continues unchecked and communities are not prepared. But these costs are not only a future concern, they are already being paid by Americans. In a study published in the journal GeoHealth, NRDC experts and a University of California-San Francisco economist examined the health impacts and costs of 10 climate-sensitive case study events affecting 11 U.S. states in 2012, including wildfires in Colorado and Washington, ozone air pollution in Nevada, and extreme heat in Wisconsin. The health costs of the 10 case studies alone totaled an estimated $10 billion (2018 dollars).

The increasing health effects and costs of climate change cannot be ignored. We must take immediate steps to broaden our understanding of these health risks and improve our ability to reduce and prepare for future climate-related health hazards and costs.