To discuss the nature of climate change and both its immediate and long-term effects on human respiratory health.
This review is based on information from a presentation of the American College of Chest Physicians course on Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease held in Toronto, Canada, June 2013. It is supplemented by a PubMed search for climate change, global warming, respiratory tract diseases, and respiratory health. It is also supplemented by a search of Web sites including the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, World Meteorological Association, National Snow and Ice Data Center, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, and the World Health Organization.
Health effects of climate change include an increase in the prevalence of certain respiratory diseases, exacerbations of chronic lung disease, premature mortality, allergic responses, and declines in lung function.
Climate change, mediated by greenhouse gases, causes adverse health effects to the most vulnerable patient populations—the elderly, children, and those in distressed socioeconomic strata.