Human Dimensions of Global Warming

Lesson 4: Impacts on Us - Human Health and Our Food and Water


One of the biggest concerns that people have about climate change is how it might affect human health. What are the current and projected future health impacts of climate change? Who is at risk? What can be done to reduce those impacts and risks?

Climate change affects human health in three ways:

  1. direct exposure
  2. indirect exposure
  3. socioeconomic disruption

These effects of climate change do not act in isolation, however; environmental, social, and health system factors modify these impacts substantially.

Flowchart showing how climate change affects health through paths like direct & indirect exposure and environment conditions.

Pathways by which climate change affects health, and concurrent direct-acting and modifying influences of environmental, social, and health-system factors.
Credit: Parry, M. L., et al. (2007). Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 8. Retrieved June 29, 2011 from

In this lesson, we will explore, respectively, the direct health impacts of climate, the indirect health impacts of climate, and additional pressures on human health. The fourth section on vulnerability to climate impacts on health will precede a final section on potential adaptation strategies.

What will we learn?

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • define the direct impacts of climate change on human health and discuss the main types of these direct impacts;
  • define the indirect impacts of climate change on human health and discuss some examples of these indirect impacts;
  • identify and discuss factors beyond climate change that are fundamental to the good health of an individual and a society;

What is due for Lesson 4?

Lesson 4 will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Calendar in Canvas for specific timeframes and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found within this lesson.

Complete the following steps to complete Lesson 4:

  • Work through the lesson 4 content on this website.
  • Read the required reading assignments.
  • Take the Lesson 4 Content Quiz.
  • Write your Write to Learn response.


If you have questions, please feel free to post them to the Ask a Question about Lesson 4 forum. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help a classmate.