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Union of Concerned Scientists warns unchecked climate change will lead to dire health consequences by 2020

03 Jun 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: Climate Change

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report Thursday predicting that the U.S. will spend an additional $5.4 billion in health care costs if climate change continues unchecked. 

Climate-induced ozone change, the report found, lead to increased risk in respiratory illnesses such as asthma and emphysema. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. The report calculates that an additional 5,100 infants and seniors will be hospitalized due to respiratory problems brought on by increasing amounts of smog. 

The main component of smog—ground level ozone—is created through a chemical reaction brought on by heat and sunlight. “Even a small increase in ozone due to a warmer climate would have a significant impact on public health,” explained UCS public health expert and co-author of the report Liz Perera. “It would mean more asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses, emergency room trips, and premature deaths.”

California would face the most extreme implications, followed by Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia. These states have a volatile mix in which a significant percentage of their population reside in urban areas, have large numbers of children and seniors, and have the highest levels of climate change-inducing emissions from vehicles and power plants.

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