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Climate change impacts on human health at an actionable scale: a state-level assessment of Indiana, USA

Abstract

Climate change is already being felt on local levels, with historical records from the State of Indiana (USA) revealing warmer winters and more extreme precipitation events. To refine our understanding of climate change impacts on human health, we conducted a state-level assessment of future climate change impacts on human health using outputs from advanced climate model projections for this century. Future projections show a steep increase in extreme heat events, leading to greater potential vulnerability to heat disasters for Indiana communities. Additionally, a 2- to 4-fold increase in days with “uncomfortable night” conditions by the end of the century will strongly impact the cardiopulmonary health of more vulnerable populations (i.e., elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, children, and those with inadequate access to cooling). Continued trends for warmer winters and more flooding suggest a much greater risk for the expansion and virulence of a number of vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and “tropical” diseases for which the mosquito vectors will thrive. Higher temperatures will also drive more frequent and severe harmful algal blooms in lakes and reservoirs, with implications for human and animal health. Food systems will also be impacted, particularly with increased risk of contamination by bacteria and mycotoxins due to elevated heat and humidity.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the assistance of Jeffrey Dukes, Melissa Widhalm, and the Purdue Climate Change Research Center during the conception, development, and presentation of this work. We also appreciate the valuable insights from the Indiana State Department of Health in framing the health impacts assessment aspects of this work.

Funding

This work was partially supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, funded by Indiana University’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge Initiative, and by National Science Foundation award ICER-1701132 to Filippelli.

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Correspondence to G. M. Filippelli.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment” edited by Jeffrey Dukes, Melissa Widhalm, Daniel Vimont, and Linda Prokopy

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Filippelli, G.M., Freeman, J.L., Gibson, J. et al. Climate change impacts on human health at an actionable scale: a state-level assessment of Indiana, USA. Climatic Change 163, 1985–2004 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02710-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02710-9

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Human health
  • Ozone