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Climate Change Impacts

Heat-Related Illness and Disease

As temperatures rise, so do the risks of heat-related illness and even death for the most vulnerable human populations.

In 2003, for example, extreme heat waves caused more than 20,000 deaths in Europe and more than 1,500 deaths in India. Scientists have linked the deadly heat waves to climate change and warn of more to come.

In addition to heat-related illness, climate change may increase the spread of infectious diseases, mainly because warmer temperatures allow disease-carrying insects, animals and microbes to survive in areas where they were once thwarted by cold weather.

Diseases and pests that were once limited to the tropics — such as mosquitoes that carry malaria — may find hospitable conditions in new areas that were once too cold to support them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change may have caused more than 150,000 deaths in the year 2000 alone, with an increase in deaths likely in the future.

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