Climate Change Means Higher Medical Costs

By Frances Beinecke

When I speak to lawmakers and business leaders about the costs of climate change, they tend to think in terms of damaged property and lost agricultural revenue. Certainly the fires in Texas and the flooding from Vermont to Virginia have brought home the staggering costs associated with rebuilding homes and replanting crops. But one cost of extreme weather has gone nearly unreported: health care.

In a groundbreaking study published recently in Health Affairs, a group of NRDC scientists and university economists looked at six climate-change-related events that happened in the United States in the last decade.

These extreme events accounted for more than $14 billion in health-related care costs and more than 760,000 interactions with the health care system.

As climate change intensifies, these medical bills will rise dramatically.

Today a report by the world’s leading body of climate scientists concluded that global warming is causing more extreme weather events and they will become even more frequent in the decades ahead.

That means greater health threats and higher medical costs.

We are already seeing the toll these events take. Extreme weather routinely sends people to emergency rooms with injuries, respiratory illness, and other life-threatening conditions.

In a blistering heat wave that hit California in 2006, 655 people’s deaths, 1,620 hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 excess emergency room visits resulted in nearly $5.4 billion dollars in costs, according to the new study.

When the Red River flooded in North Dakota in 2009, the news media covered the damage done to homes and communities. But few realized that the two deaths, 263 emergency room visits, and an estimated 3,000 outpatient visits associated with the flood generated more than $20 million in health-related costs.

And across the United States in 2002, high temperatures increased the amount of smog pollution in the air, exposing nearly 288 million Americans to smog levels higher than those deemed safe for public health.  This extra pollution hastened the death of 795 people, caused 4,150 hospitalizations, and prompted more than 365,000 outpatient visits. This smog-related medical care came at cost of $6.5 billion.

If we want to shield our families from these health hazards and stop the escalation in medical costs, America must set limits on global warming pollution.

President Obama has made an impressive start. The clean car standards he announced in July will cut carbon emissions from vehicles in half and save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump. But cars and trucks are only one piece in the puzzle.

Power plants account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, yet there is no limit on how much global warming pollution these plants can release. The Obama administration is expected to set limits on carbon pollution on plants. Together with the clean car standards, these new safeguards would cover two-thirds of the nation’s global warming pollution.

This is the kind of progress we must make if we want to save money and lives in the decades ahead.

[Photo By anolobb]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

How a harsh criticism turned ‘Coco’ into Pixar’s most uniquely made movie yet

Victor Landa November 17, 2017

Director Lee Unkrich was hot off the box office success and Oscar win for 2010’s “Toy Story 3” when he delved into making a movie that focused on the Mexican […]

Trump Administration Targets and then Mocks Immigrant with Prosthetic Leg

Victor Landa November 15, 2017

A 20-year-old undocumented immigrant with prosthetic leg and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status has been detained by federal immigration agents and held without charges for over a month, treated inhumanely […]

More Latinas are becoming teachers and reshaping our nation’s classrooms

Victor Landa November 29, 2017

The growth of the Latino population in the United States will have a lasting cultural and intellectual impact beyond the arts, food, and celebrations. More and more, Latinas are becoming […]

As Numbers Grow, Recognizing Generations Of Latino Veterans

Victor Landa November 10, 2017

As the nation honors its veterans, government officials point to the growing numbers of Latinos in the military, while Hispanic scholars and historians remind us of the generations of Latino […]

U.S Hispanic Chamber Leader Who Has Had Turbulent Relationship With Trump May Be Ousted

Victor Landa November 22, 2017

The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) is moving behind the scenes to oust its prominent president Javier Palomarez over allegations that he misused the organization’s money for his personal […]

How Indie Latinx Comic Book Authors Are Capturing the Latinx Experience

Victor Landa November 13, 2017

Back in 2010, comics creator Javier Hernandez was walking around San Francisco with his friend Ricardo Padilla when he had an idea: Why don’t they build a comics convention focusing […]

Half of Latino Immigrant Characters on TV Are Portrayed as Criminals, Study Finds

Victor Landa November 1, 2017

Define American, the immigration nonprofit founded by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has released its first-ever media reference guide for writers, directors, and producers concerning Latino immigrant characters. Immigrants and […]

Hispanic Caucus denies membership to Republican Carlos Curbelo

Victor Landa November 17, 2017

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday denied Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo his membership bid, the latest volley in a nasty dispute between the Florida lawmaker and some members of the […]