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The Science

  • An overwhelming majority of climate scientists, the governments of 195 countries, and virtually all institutions of higher learning and science agree that climate change is real.

 

  • Climate change is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels by people - for electricity, heat, transportation and other uses. And, scientists generally think 100% of global warming is due to people.

 

 

  • The economic costs of climate change are enormous and growing, while the economic opportunities are massive. The energy sector is ~10% of the global economy.

 

  • Some health impacts are relatively easy to understand. Consider for example heat waves. Climate change means more frequent, more intense, and longer heat waves. For older people and people suffering from many forms of chronic disease, a heat wave can be life threatening.  Recent heatwaves in Europe and India have killed thousands of people. The 1995 heatwave in Chicago resulted in 739 recorded deaths. (If the impact on others with chronic conditions could be reliably measured, researchers believe the numbers would be far higher.)

 

  • Other impacts are far more complex, and have the potential to create devastating impacts on communities and entire countries over long periods of time. Consider what happens when food production and distribution is continually upended by more frequent severe weather? Or, sea level rise forces vast movements of people out of flooded coastal areas?

 

  • The leading edge of the impacts on health has already arrived. The proverbial “canary in the coal mine” can be found in stories from across the globe.

  • The most vulnerable among us will be affected hardest. 

  • Vermont direct health risks include: increased summer heat-related emergency-room visits and deaths; increased cyanobacteria blooms (blue-green algae) in lakes and ponds; increased water-borne illness caused by flooding and water supply contamination; increases mental illness related to stress and depression; increases in insect-borne disease; more seasonal allergies and asthma, and increased illness and death related to more frequent and severe rainfall events such as tropical storm Irene.

  • Vermont indirect health risks include: impacts on food production and distribution; reduced funding available for health care, social services and education due to climate change-related remediation and infrastructure expenditures; reduction in personal assets and loss of infrastructure due to more frequent severe weather events.

  • This diagram from the Center for Disease Control summarizes the full set of risks. (Click the image to see a larger version.)