About the Climate Change Collaboratory

The Nexus Collaboratory on Climate Change and Health

Climate change is possibly the grandest challenge of our century and represents an existential threat to our country and the world. We are now on a trajectory to exceed a global mean temperature increase of 2°C over pre-industrial levels. This is already producing melting of glaciers and sea ice, sea level rise and coastal inundation, desertification, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, increases in vector-borne infectious diseases, and climate-exacerbated extreme weather events. In the U.S., inflation-adjusted billion-dollar disasters have dramatically increased in frequency since 1980. We know that the burdens of climate change are borne disproportionately by people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status.

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The overarching goal of this collaboratory is to assemble multidisciplinary teams of climate scientists and public health experts to develop innovative and transformative proposals that will attract new funding for research that addresses the nexus between climate change and public health with a focus on climate challenges in the heartland.

Impacts of Climate Change on Health

ChangeClimate DriverExposureHEalth OutcomeIMpact

Extreme Heat
More frequent, severe, prolonged heat eventsElevated temperaturesHeat-related death and illnessRising temperatures may lead to an increase in heat-related deaths and illnesses

Outdoor Air Quality
Increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patternsWorsened air quality (ozone, particulate matter, and higher pollen counts)Premature death and acute and chronic cardiovascular and respiratory illnessesRising temperatures and wildfires and decreasing precipitation may lead to increases in ozone and particular matter, elevating the risks of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses and death

Rising sea level and more frequent or intense extreme precipitation, hurricanes, and storm surge eventsContaminated water, debris and disruptions to essential infrastructureDrowning, injuries, mental health consequences, gastrointestinal and other illnessIncreased coastal and inland flooding exposes populations to a range of negative health impacts before, during and after events
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Vector-Borne Infection (Lyme Disease)
Changes in temperature extremes and seasonal weather patternsEarlier and geographically expanded tick activityLyme diseaseTicks may show earlier seasonal activity and a generally northward range expansion, increasing risk of human exposure to Lyme disease-causing bacteria.

Water-Related Infection (Vibrio vulnificus)
Rising sea surface temperature, changes in precipitation and runoff affecting coastal salinityRecreational water or shellfish contaminated with Vibrio vulnificusVibrio vulnificus-induced diarrhea and intestinal illness, wound and bloodstream infections, deathIncreases in water temperatures may alter timing and location of Vibrio vulnificus growth, increasing exposure and risk of waterborne illness

Food-Related Infection (Salmonella)
Increases in temperature, humidity and season lengthIncreased growth of pathogens seasonal shifts in incidence of Salmonella exposureSalmonella infection, gastrointestinal outbreaksRising temperatures increase Salmonella prevalence in food: longer seasons and warming winters increase risk of exposure and infection

Mental Health and Well-Being
Climate impacts, especially extreme weatherLevel of exposure to traumatic events, like disastersDistress, grief, behavioral health disorders, social impacts, resilienceChanges in exposure to climate or weather-related disasters may cause or exacerbate stress and mental health consequences
USGCRP (2016). The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC.