About the Institute

Climate Change and Human Health

Global temperatures are expected to rise by 1.5 ℃ between 2030 and 2052, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These higher global temperatures lead to a complex interplay between climate, social and environmental conditions, and human health. Changing temperatures alter the geographic distribution of mosquitoes, ticks, and other pathogen-carrying vectors, that can lead to outbreaks of Lyme, Dengue Fever, West Nile and other diseases. Extreme or prolonged heat waves are increasing the severity and frequency of wildfires, the smoke from which can harm human health, and exacerbates deaths from heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and other heat-related illnesses. Warmer global temperatures impact food and water systems, increasing the potential for food and water insecurity and food- and water-related disease outbreaks, especially among vulnerable populations. Even the drivers of climate change, like the burning of greenhouse gases, impact our lungs and can lead to respiratory illnesses.

In other words, climate change has a profound impact on human health. What we do about it also matters. The actions we take to mitigate long-term, global climate change will also improve health and livelihood locally through clearer air, cleaner water, improved physical fitness, expanded natural environments for both recreation and ecosystem protection, and reduced congestion and noise. Curbing greenhouse gases and simultaneously improving health requires governments and stakeholders at urban, national, and international scales to take evidence-based action, with health and equity at the forefront.

Our Vision and Mission

At GW’s Climate & Health Institute, we believe there are solutions and opportunities to mitigate the harm of climate change on human health.

Our vision is an evidence-based global response by governments and stakeholders to mitigate the climate crisis and equitably improve public health.

Our mission is to promote equitable protection of population health at the local, national and global level by:

  • Conducting policy-relevant and community-oriented research that reveals relationships between climate change, human health and equity.
  • Educating and empowering the newest generation of leaders in equitably minimizing climate change and its health consequences.
  • Communicating and translating cross-disciplinary knowledge to integrate health and equity into actions to address climate change.

Why GW?

GW faculty have strong foundational expertise in everything from public health and policy, to the climate sciences and infectious diseases. We apply a health and equity lens to conduct novel climate and health research alongside training programs in public health and medicine. We are also deeply engaged in climate, sustainability, and environmental policy and international affairs, as well as effective climate and health communications. Moreover, our location in the nation’s capital gives us unparalleled access to DC-based governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental institutions that help bridge research to action.