Report: Climate changes costing U.S. billions in health spending

Serious damage in the buildings at the Seagate neighborhood due to impact from Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn, New York, in 2012 (Fashionstock.com/Shutterstock)

From deaths and injuries caused by extreme heat and stronger storms to longer growing seasons linked to an increased risk of mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses and wildfires, the healthcare impacts of climate change are costing the U.S. billions, a new analysis found.

Case in point: An analysis of a single year—2012—by researchers at the Natural Resource Defense Council and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) estimated a total of 10 climate-sensitive events in the U.S. that ultimately cost $10 billion. 

That estimate stems from costs associated with 917 deaths, 20,568 hospitalizations and 17,857 emergency room visits, researchers said in the study published in the journal GeoHealth. 

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RELATED: Medical groups call climate change a 'health emergency'

Among the costs connected to "climate-sensitive events" in 2012, researchers pointed to:

  • $252 million in Wisconsin: A heatwave led to several record temperatures were broken over the span of a week in July 2012. Researchers analyzed costs from an estimated 27 deaths, 155 hospitalizations and 1,620 emergency room visits that summer.
     
  • $1.6 billion in Colorado and $2.3 billion in Washington: Longer fire seasons in the western U.S. have resulted from higher temperatures and changes in seasonal rainfall patterns. Researchers examined costs from direct wildfire deaths and impacts attributed to wildfire smoke in 2012. There were 174 deaths, 256 hospitalizations and 1,432 emergency room visits in Colorado and 245 deaths, 371 hospitalizations and 1,897 emergency room visits in Washington. 
     
  • $3.1 billion in New Jersey and New York: Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding and power outages for more than 20 million customers. Sea level rise is believed to have amplified the storm surge. Researchers estimate there were 273 hurricane-related deaths, 6,602 hospitalizations and 4,673 emergency room visits.

RELATED: Moody's: Climate change, politics pose credit risk for insurers

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