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Health and Climate Change in Kansas (July 2019)

By Steve Corbett, Ph.D., Jason M. Orr, M.P.H., Charles Hunt, M.P.H. | July 22, 2019

Health and Climate Change in Kansas (July 2019)

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Few issues are as politically charged as climate change. According to many recent surveys, a majority of Americans believe that climate change is occurring, while opinions vary as to whether or not it is caused primarily by human activities.

Among scientists, however, there is a strong consensus that our planet is warming and that the warming over the past 50 years has been caused primarily by human activities. Numerous studies indicate that the rising average temperature globally is associated with melting of snow and ice, particularly at the poles, rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns, such as extreme heat and precipitation. Changes in climate and weather patterns are impacted largely by changes in atmospheric gas concentrations, thereby prompting governments around the world to adopt regulatory policies to mitigate emissions.

Given that Kansas has a substantial agricultural industry, with an economy that is highly dependent on the weather, climate change is a substantial concern in Kansas. Additionally, research suggests that the projected climate changes are likely to have negative impacts on human health. This issue brief discusses the health conditions most likely to be exacerbated by key climate factors and examines the feasibility of using climate change literature and data sources to estimate impacts in Kansas. 

Key points from the brief include:

  • As a result of global climate change, the major environmental effects expected in Kansas are increasing temperatures and more variable precipitation.
  • The substantial agriculture industry in Kansas makes climate change a concern.
  • Hotter, drier conditions affect the major areas of air quality concern: ozone (smog) and particulate matter (PM).
  • Rates of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and other chronic conditions are likely to increase under projected climate change scenarios.
  • A longer period for pollen production will expand the allergy season and worsen asthma symptoms.
  • Warmer temperatures increase the length of the season for insect vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, of transmissible diseases.

*List of reference materials used in this analysis.

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.