$820 billion a year – that’s the price tag of the health impacts of climate change

By - Integrated Care Journal

$820 billion a year – that’s the price tag of the health impacts of climate change

A recently published report by US organisations Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that the climate crisis, in addition to being a dangerous threat to human health, is also a very expensive issue costing over $820 billion per year in the United States alone.

The report called The Costs of Inaction: The Economic Burden of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change on Health in the United States is among the first to calculate the broad financial toll on public health from climate-change-driven impacts.

The report concluded that: “the health costs of air pollution and climate change already far exceed $800 billion per year and are expected to become even more expensive in years to come without a stronger societal response to address this crisis. ”

However, according to the report, the estimated price tag is most likely underestimated due to limited health data available. The $800 billion figure is the result of different elements including the loss of productivity due to extreme heat, medical treatment and recovery due to health problems worsened by climate change and extreme weather events that require people to seek medical care, among many others.

The report also highlights in details the estimated health impacts and health cost of the main impacts of climate change such as air pollution, infectious diseases and extreme weather events. By far, air pollution is the greatest threat to people’s health resulting in over 100,000 premature deaths and $800 billion in health costs.

Tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease also represent a significant threat to people’s health and health costs. The health costs of these relate mostly to the diagnosis, treatment and management of between 240,000 and 440,000 new cases (inpatient, outpatient and pharmacy costs).

Report co-author Dr Vijay Limaye said: “The science is clear: the dangerous effects of climate change—and their profound costs to our health and our pocketbooks— will worsen each year we fail to curb the pollution that is destabilizing our planet.

We face a choice: continue down this dead-end path of inaction and soaring healthcare bills. Or make smart investments now in cost-effective solutions that will prevent millions of people in our country—especially the most vulnerable—from suffering injuries, illness, and premature death. The time to act is now. ”

The report also made clear that these impacts, both on health and the costs, are projected to significantly escalate with “the potential to trigger substantial increases in harm to public health in the U.S.

Full report available here

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