Date: 17 Apr 2007

Climate and human health: synthesizing environmental complexity and uncertainty

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Abstract

Broad relationships between weather and human health have long been recognized, and there is currently a large body of research examining the impacts of climate change on human health. Much of the literature in this area examines climate–health relationships at global or regional levels, incorporating mostly generalized responses of pathogens and vectors to broad changes in climate. Far less research has been done to understand the direct and indirect climate-mediated processes involved at finer scales. Thus, some studies simplify the role of climate and may over- or under-estimate the potential response, while others have begun to highlight the subtle and complex role for climate that is contingent on other relevant processes occurring in natural and social environments. These fundamental processes need to be understood to determine the effects of past, current and future climate variation and change on human health. We summarize the principal climate variables and climate-dependent processes that are believed to impact human health across a representative set of diseases, along with key uncertainties in these relationships.