Date of this Version
Puvvula, J., Abadi, A. M., Conlon, K. C., Rennie, J. J., Herring, S. C., Thie, L., et al. (2022). Estimating the burden of heat-related illness morbidity attributable to anthropogenic climate change in North Carolina. GeoHealth, 6, e2022GH000636. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GH000636
Climate change is known to increase the frequency and intensity of hot days (daily maximum temperature ≥30°C), both globally and locally. Exposure to extreme heat is associated with numerous adverse human health outcomes. This study estimated the burden of heat-related illness (HRI) attributable to anthropogenic climate change in North Carolina physiographic divisions (Coastal and Piedmont) during the summer months from 2011 to 2016. Additionally, assuming intermediate and high greenhouse gas emission scenarios, future HRI morbidity burden attributable to climate change was estimated. The association between daily maximum temperature and the rate of HRI was evaluated using the Generalized Additive Model. The rate of HRI assuming natural simulations (i.e., absence of greenhouse gas emissions) and future greenhouse gas emission scenarios were predicted to estimate the HRI attributable to climate change. Over 4 years (2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015), we observed a significant decrease in the rate of HRI assuming natural simulations compared to the observed. About 3 out of 20 HRI visits are attributable to anthropogenic climate change in Coastal (13.40% [IQR: −34.90,95.52]) and Piedmont (16.39% [IQR: −35.18,148.26]) regions. During the future periods, the median rate of HRI was significantly higher (78.65%: Coastal and 65.85%: Piedmont), assuming a higher emission scenario than the intermediate emission scenario. We observed significant associations between anthropogenic climate change and adverse human health outcomes. Our findings indicate the need for evidence-based public health interventions to protect human health from climate-related exposures, like extreme heat, while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.