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Diplomacy in Action

United States Global Engagement on Climate Change and Public Health

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
January 5, 2011


Climate change is predicted to have widespread effects on human health. Higher temperatures could contribute to an increase in heat-related deaths and cardiovascular illness as well as a spread in vector-borne diseases. Reduced air quality could cause an increase in respiratory disease. On a global basis, the net impact of climate change on health is expected to be harmful, with adverse effects in most regions outweighing the benefits of less severe cold temperatures in some regions. Vulnerability will vary widely among and within countries.

The United States is collaborating with international partners in a broad range of activities designed to better understand and respond to climate change and its implications for human health.

Commitment to Research and Assessment Activities – Health problems associated with climate change are complex and dynamic, requiring multi-disciplinary research to understand potential impacts and to be able to anticipate their occurrence. The United States is committed to a robust research agenda and to collaborating on international research and assessments of the effects of climate change on human health.

  • The National Institutes of Health conducts a wide variety of studies related to climate change and health and trains international investigators through several different programs. In July 2010, NIH released a new climate change and health funding opportunity focusing on population vulnerability.
  • The National Science Foundation funds research on a wide range of health-related climate change topics. The NSF also spends about $10 million on their Climate Change Education Program annually.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency addresses air quality, water quality, and human health concerns related to climate change. In addition to funding research in these areas, the Agency has published assessment documents related to climate change impacts on human health, including a report on the effects of climate change on air quality.
  • The Department of the Interior has launched eight regional Climate Science Centers and the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center to deliver basic climate change-impact science to Landscape Conservation Cooperatives for research-driven management and adaptation decisions.
  • The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates federal climate change research and supports domestic and international climate assessment activities, including the National Climate Assessment. Interagency Cross-Cutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG) was launched in March 2010 and coordinates federal efforts on climate change and health, including connecting science and assessment and services.
  • The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funds nine regional Integrated Science and Assessments groups which provide integrated, place-based research across a range of social, natural and physical science disciplines.
  • The Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture combines research, education and extension to improve global capacity to meet food demand, address climate change challenges, design optimum forestry and crops for bioenergy production, and ensure food safety.

Taking Action on Adaptation – Recognizing the need to protect public health even as ongoing research provides fuller insights into climate change impacts and co-benefits for human health, the United States has strengthened numerous domestic and international adaptation initiatives, such as:

  • The President’s Climate Change Adaption Task Force includes federal agencies who delivered initial recommendations for climate change adaptation strategies to President Obama in October 2010.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Climate Change Program leads efforts to identify health impacts of climate change and the populations most vulnerable to those impacts, anticipate future trends, and assure that systems are in place to detect and respond to emerging health threats.
  • In June 2010, the Department of State submitted its fifth Climate Action Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, detailing United States action on climate change.
  • The “Feed the Future” Program under the U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative (GHFSI) launched in May 2010 is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. USAID is collaborating with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) to support food security climate change adaptation programs in Africa. Priorities include conservation, agriculture and water management.
  • The United States is a contributing member of the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF), which began its Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) in 2008. Through the PPCR, the Global Climate Change Initiative, and other climate-related USG programs, the U.S. integrates climate change considerations into country-based development planning.

Integrating Global Surveillance into Global Health Strategy – Global surveillance allows for the collection and interpretation of data on climate trends in order to provide early warning of extreme events or disease-promoting conditions so that stakeholders all over the world can make effective climate and health adaptation decisions.

  • U.S. agencies collaborate in operating famine and malaria early warning systems, FEWSNET and MEWS, in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Haiti, and Afghanistan. FEWSNET creates monthly food security reports for twenty five countries based on satellite and field data.
  • SERVIR, a remote sensing system operated by the EPA, NASA, USAID, and NOAA uses satellite, ground-based, and forecast models to accumulate data such as air quality information, natural disaster risk, and agricultural conditions.
  • USAID, NOAA, and other international organizations support Radio and Internet for the Communication of Hydro-Meteorological and Climate-Related Information for Development (RANET), a program that provides weather and climate data to remote communities in Africa.
  • As part of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the U.S. collaborates with international organizations on the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The health component of GEOSS provides early warning of potential health threats, including meningitis outbreaks and air pollution emergencies.

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