Lung Disease and Climate Change

Posted On 2013-08-19 16:16:41

In a recent article in Chest Drs. Bernstein and Rice from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital discuss that climate change is a health threat no less consequential than cigarette smoking (1).

They describe that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, and especially CO₂, in the earth's atmosphere have already warmed the planet substantially, causing more severe and prolonged heat waves, temperature variability, air pollution, forest fires, droughts, and floods, all of which put respiratory health at risk. These changes in climate and air quality substantially increase respiratory morbidity and mortality for patients with common chronic lung diseases such as asthma and COPD and other serious lung diseases.

The authors state that physicians should have a vital role in addressing climate change, just as they did with tobacco, by communicating how climate change is a serious, but remediable, hazard to their patients.

Note a related article from the Harvard Center recently published in CDT (2).


1. Bernstein AS, Rice MB Lungs in a warming world: climate change and respiratory health.Chest. 2013 May;143(5):1455-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.12-2384. PMID: 23648909

2. Chivian E. Global Environmental Threats: why they are hard to see and how a medical model may contribute to their understanding. Cardiovasc Diagn Ther 2013;3(2):93-104. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2223-3652.2013.02.09