Climate change will likely have a significant impact on the world’s ecosystems, but it could also lead to more premature human deaths, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, examined the impact that climate change could have on health and predicted a significant rise in air pollution that could lead to a rise in premature deaths. Increased air pollution related to global warming could lead to 60,000 more early deaths globally each year by 2030, and as many as 260,000 more in 2100.
Conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart attack, stroke and lung cancer are worsened by air pollution, said study co-author Jason West, Ph.D., an associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at UNC.
"We understand that today something like 2 to 4 million people likely die prematurely each year around the world due to exposure to outdoor air pollution," West told HealthDay. "It's a big problem obviously in very polluted regions like China and India, but it's also a problem in the United States."
The researchers modeled global climate change trends on eight different computer models. Five out of the eight models predicted an increased number of deaths related to air pollution by 2030, and all eight predicted increases by 2100. This trend is expected in all regions except for Africa, according to the study.
Despite concerns about the impact of climate change, President Donald Trump recently pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, which aimed to reduce emissions. Many provider groups denounced the decision, with the American College of Physicians noting that the poor, elderly and sick are particularly at risk for the negative side effects.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price applauded the effort, however, saying the climate agreement was a “bad deal for the American people.”
The research in this area progresses slowly, opening the door for climate change deniers to spread misinformation and medical “fake news” to patients who may be at risk.