Friday, November 11, 2011

Health Costs of Climate Change

The current issue of Health Affairs includes this article, which is trying to quantify the health-related costs of US environmental events related to climate change. This is a tricky problem, since no single environmental event can properly be attributed to climate change. The authors have instead named six categories of events tied in the literature to climate change (ozone pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious disease outbreaks like West Nile, river flooding, and wildfires), and done a health-cost estimate for one example of each such event. It's an interesting approach to getting a handle on health costs of environmental problems. They find $14 billion of health costs related to the six events, most of it due to premature loss of life; and $740 million in health-system costs incurred during 760,000 encounters with the health-care system.

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