Climate change and mortality

Climate change and mortality

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Speaker(s): Sam Gutterman (self-employed)

Climate change will have wide-ranging effects around the world, including on mortality, the focus of this paper, which summarizes some of the leading research around the world. It also describes possible future impacts, particularly vulnerable population segments (for example, where extreme variations in temperature and precipitation are likely) and those covered by insurance and retirement programs. However, it is likely that future changes in climate will in some way affect all countries and all socio-economic groups.

There is a wide and complex range of interacting causes and effects, which includes changing patterns of disease from certain strains of mosquitoes, drought/famine, conflicts, storms and wildfires, as well as slow-onset conditions (slowly developing conditions with a cumulative effect, such as ocean acidification and rising sea levels) that may lead to migration of vulnerable populations and to high population densities.
But not all effects on mortality of climate change are adverse. Beneficial effects can also occur (e.g., changing crop patterns that reduce food insecurity) or from mitigation activities (e.g., increased use of air conditioning).

Since areas in which actuaries are more active tend to involve non-vulnerable populations, the effect on mortality on these programs may not be as large as on its vulnerable segments. In addition, other factors, including changes in medical treatment, medical infrastructure and lifestyle, may have a greater effect on mortality than climate change in many segments where actuaries are involved, although these effects should nonetheless be considered.

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