Protecting Earth's Climate for Future Generations

Connecticut: Human Health

Heat waves are predicted to become much more common, posing increasing risks for human health. Increase in average temperature is expected to increase the number of heat-related illness and deaths, especially in cities. An increase of 2 degrees in the annual average is expected to result in an increase in heat-related deaths of 20%, from approximately 40 per year to 50.

Increased emissions combined with higher temperatures will cause an increase in levels of ground-level ozone. Ozone is a toxic component of smog with the potential to cause serious long-term and permanent damage to lung tissue with repeated exposure. A 4-degree increase in average temperature could increase the concentration of ground-level ozone by 4%. Additionally, increases in temperature and humidity levels can aggravate symptoms of respiratory allergies and asthma by stimulating plant pollen production, which will be further exacerbated by high availability of atmospheric CO2, which is also predicted to stimulate plant growth early in the season.

With milder, shorter winters and longer growing seasons, insect diseases vectors are expected to increase seasonally. Risk of increase in West Nile Virus, malaria, dengue, and Eastern Equine encephalitis transmission is of special concern. Many waterborne diseases thrive in warm water conditions, such as cholera, and present a risk to public health as temperatures and flood frequency increases. There is also an increased risk of run-over from sewage and septic systems in times of high flood. Warmer water temperatures foster algal species and which are associated with human shellfish poisoning and cholera.Warmer temperatures and increased seasonal precipitation could also increase lowlying vegetation, and with it, invasion of ticks carrying Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, as well as their rodent hosts.