College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

Air Pollution, Climate Change, and Their Effects on Human Health

Joe Spadro

Dr. Joe Spadaro shared some statistics regarding climate change’s effect on human health with Anna Alberini’s new course, Economics of Climate Change (AREC454).

With research experience with the World Health Organization, World Bank and the European Union, Spadaro shared with the students his in-depth knowledge of the intersection of our changing climate and our health. The impact is more complex and far-reaching than one might think.

Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, temperature increases, air pollution, vector-borne disease, malnutrition and other consequences of climate change have a broad scope of impact, and these results end up harming certain groups of people far more than others.

Spadaro listed several major influencing factors as having the potential to shield people from the above mentioned adverse effects. Societal infrastructure, access to healthcare, socioeconomic status and even geography can be a major factor when determining the risk one is at for health problems from climate change.

A poor person with no healthcare living in New Orleans is more likely to be hurt by climate change compared to a rich person from Toronto. Though these factors along with many others show that people in Southeast Asia are at the highest risk, the whole world will be affected by the health issues that come with our changing climate.

With health problems naturally come economic costs- Spadaro reported that Africa could stand to lose 4-5% of its GDP due to the health issues of climate change alone, not even factoring in non-health related issues.

He also noted that mitigation, i.e., reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, effectively also reduces emissions of conventional air pollution. The health benefits of improved air quality easily add up to 1-2% of the world’s GDP—and that’s without even counting the other avoided health damages of climate change.

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