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Study Warns of Cascading Health Risks from Changing Climate

Among the biggest threats facing humans in a warming climate are heat stress, which not only kills people directly but can also cause kidney and cardiovascular disease, the report noted. Higher temperatures can also reduce the ability of people to work, especially in agriculture, causing tens of billions of lost work capacity every year.

The most worrying, according to the authors, is the combined effect of extreme weather events that are exacerbated by climate change. Heat waves, floods and storms can hit a very common health system intended to help people, the report said. Failure to control emissions, he warned, can causing the disaster "Disrupting core public health infrastructure and flooding health services."

The American report, called the National Climate Assessment, says that rainfall is extreme can overwhelm diseased waterways and drains contribute to a shortage of drinking water and increase exposure to gastrointestinal diseases. In some parts of the country, such as Florida and Texas, higher temperatures will be a boon to the types of mosquitoes that transmit the virus that causes dengue fever, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Repeating this warning on Wednesday, Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, urging world leaders to quickly curb greenhouse gas emissions as they promised under the Paris climate agreement three years ago. Nine out of 10 people breathe insecure air, according to the World Health Organization, Mr. Guterres said. "Meeting the Paris Agreement can save more than one million lives a year," he said.

Cutting emissions from sources such as coal-fired power plants and diesel-fueled trucks will also result in huge savings for the public health system, said the Lancet author. "Doing that now will be good for us, it will be good for our livelihoods and will be good for the planet," said Dr. Ebi.

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