Extreme temperatures are already here: July 2019 was the hottest month in recorded history, 2016 was the hottest year on record, and 2019 was in second place—in fact, 19 of the 20 warmest years ever recorded have occurred in the past two decades. As heat waves are becoming more intense and more frequent—worsening heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions—NRDC is helping communities adapt and prepare. India’s Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, for example, designed an early warning system for heat based on scientific research conducted by NRDC and our partners, which is serving as a model for other city, state, and national programs.
Extreme weather events fueled by climate change will likely cause catastrophic damage, higher death tolls, and more injuries and illnesses. In recent years, cataclysmic hurricanes and flooding have destroyed communities and led to thousands of lives lost. Drought and wildfires have ravaged the West Coast. In addition to pushing for climate-resilient infrastructure, NRDC also connects the dots between such events and the toll to our health and our economy—just six extreme weather events between 2002 and 2009, for example, totaled at least $14 billion in health costs.
The cascading impacts of a shifting climate will impact our health in less obvious ways, too. Rising heat worsens smog, which causes eye, throat, and lung damage and is particularly dangerous for the millions of people with respiratory illnesses, like asthma. NRDC is also raising awareness on the links between climate change and infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and Dengue fever.
We can see all these changes happening now—and without significant climate action, both our ecosystem and our health will continue to pay the price.