How does this relate to public health?
Some of the biggest climate change concerns for public health include rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and increasing intense precipitation events. Mid-latitude cities, such as those in North Carolina, tend to experience greater summer climate variability. These cities are also expected to experience the greatest increase in summertime heat-related deaths as a result of climate change.1
Rising average temperatures and more frequent and more intense heat waves due to climate change are affecting human health in several ways. Most directly, warmer average temperatures and more extreme temperatures put more people at risk for heat-related death and disease, such as heat stroke and dehydration.1 For example, in North Carolina, the number of heat-related visits to the emergency department increases by 15.8 for every 1Â°F increase in temperature from 98Â°F to 100Â°F.2
Older adults and young children are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. However, over the past two summers, North Carolina has seen the greatest number of heat-related visits to the emergency department among men ages 25-64.3,4 The state of North Carolina has much more rural land mass and less densely populated urban areas than other states, making it less susceptible to the urban heat island effect.5,6 In fact, research suggests that in North Carolina, heat-related illnesses are more likely to occur in rural areas than in urban areas.7
Rising temperatures may facilitate the melting of glaciers and ice caps in the ocean, contributing to rising sea levels. When coupled with more frequent storm surges, more frequent and intense flooding may result.8 These extreme weather events can reduce the availability of drinkable water, compromise the integrity of public health infrastructure, and cause direct death or injury in coastal communities.9,10The North Carolina coast is especially vulnerable to sea level rise, which has risen over a foot in the past 100 years, with large areas of land elevated only a small amount above sea level.11 A one-foot rise in sea levels is correlated with 200 feet of beach erosion in North and South Carolina.6
1Portier CJ, et al. 2010. A human health perspective on climate change: a report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change. Research Triangle Park, NC: Environmental Health Perspectives/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002272 <www.niehs.nih.gov/climatereport> Accessed November 17, 2012.
2Rhea, S; Ising, A; Fleischauer, AT; Deyneka, L; Vaughn-Batten, H; Waller, A. 2012. Using near real-time morbidity data to identify heat-related illness prevention strategies in North Carolina. Journal of Community Health 37:495-500. DOI 10.1007/s10900-011-9469-0.
3North Carolina Division of Public Health, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology. The 2011 North Carolina heat report. July 2011. <http://publichealth.nc.gov/chronicdiseaseandinjury/doc/HeatReport-13-2011.pdf> Accessed November 17, 2012.
4North Carolina Division of Public Health, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology. The 2012 North Carolina heat report. <http://publichealth.nc.gov/chronicdiseaseandinjury/doc/HeatReport20-2012.pdf> Accessed November 17, 2012.
5Reid CE, O'Neill MS, Gronlund CJ, Brines SJ, Brown DG, Diez-Roux AV, Schwartz J. 2009. Mapping community determinants of heat vulnerability. Environmental Health Perspectives. Nov;117(11):1730-1736.
6UNC Institute for the Environment, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2009. Climate change committee report 2009. <http://www.ie.unc.edu/PDF/Climate_Change_Report.pdf> Accessed November 17, 2012.
7Fuhrmann, C.M., Kovach, M.M., and C.E. Konrad II: Heat-related illness in North Carolina: Whoâ€™s at Risk? Annual Education Conference of the North Carolina Public Health Association, New Bern, NC, September 20, 2013. <http://www.sercc.com/sercc_projects> Accessed December 22, 2012.
8Tebaldi, C., Strauss, B. H., & Zervas, C. E. (2012). Modelling sea level rise impacts on storm surges along US coasts. Environmental Research Letters, 7(1):014032.
9Environmental Protection Agency. Climate change: Human impacts and adaptation. June 14, 2012. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/coasts.html#impactssea> Accessed November 17, 2012.
10English, PB; et al. 2009. Environmental health indicators of climate change for the United States: Findings from the State Environmental Health Indicator Collaborative. Environmental Health Perspectives. Nov;117(11):1673-1681.
11RENCI at ECU. 2011-2012 focus: Sea level rise. March 29, 2012. <http://www.ecu.edu/renci/Focus/SeaLevelRise.html> Accessed November 17, 2012.