Climate Change Climate Change
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC is preparing for the potential health issues that may be associated with changes in climate.

Climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate, such as temperature, precipitation, or wind, that lasts for decades or longer. Climate change may result from

• Natural factors (e.g., changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun);

• Natural processes within the climate system (e.g., changes in ocean circulation); and

• Human activities that change the atmosphere’s composition (e.g., through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g., deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)

Climate change is different from “global warming.” Global warming is an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the earth’s surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Climate change is a larger phenomenon that includes a number of changes in climate over extended periods of time and is not limited to increases in temperature.

Climate Change and Public Health
Potential effects of climate change are likely to include more variable weather, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, intense storms such as hurricanes, rises in sea level, and air pollution. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot predict how these changes will affect society and public health, but CDC is preparing for the resulting health issues that may be associated with global climate change. As the nation’s public health agency, CDC is preparing for the possibility of health effects related to climate change in the same way it prepares for the possibilities of bioterrorism and pandemic influenza. As part of preparing, experts are making use of the knowledge and experience gained from previous natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

Climate Change Preparedness: Expertise and Programs at CDC
CDC is uniquely poised to lead efforts to anticipate and respond to the broad range of effects on the health of Americans and the nation’s public health infrastructure. CDC’s expertise and programs in environmental health, infectious disease, and other fields form the foundation of public health efforts in preparedness for climate change.

CDC’s public health response to climate change is outlined in Director Dr. Julie Gerberding’s statement to the US Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works. CDC’s foundational programs include

• Environmental Public Health Tracking

• Surveillance of Water-Borne, Food-Borne, Vector-Borne, and Zoonotic Diseases

• Geographic Information Systems (GISs)

• Modeling

• Preparedness Planning

• Training and Education of Public Health Professionals


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