Science is essential to understanding how environmental changes or exposures affect and impact agricultural, ecological, and human health and disease. The emerging field of geohealth recognizes the intersection of Earth sciences, ecology, and health sciences.
The American Geophysical Union and its network of Earth and space scientists play a critical role:
- studying the cause and predictability of natural hazards
- investigating ways to reduce the geophysical, ecological, societal, and economic impacts
- helping to create resilient communities
- educating the public
- Changing climate can cause increased distribution of and prolonged exposure to the insects that spread vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus
- Higher temperatures can lead to increased allergens and pollutants in the air, which can exacerbate asthma and allergies. Air quality issues tend to disproportionately affect the young, the poor, and those with compromised immune systems.
- Ocean acidification limits the ability of marine animals with shells or calcium carbonate skeletons to grow, survive, and reproduce. The decrease in abundance or health of these animals, many of which are food for commercial species, can negatively affect the entire marine food chain. Changes to marine-based food sources will challenge global economies and the approximately 3 billion people worldwide who depend on seafood as their primary source of protein.
- Chemical exposure, from pollution and contamination, that affects humans and wildlife is a concern. A 2016 U.S. Geological Survey study found that exposure to particles or runoff from coal-tar-based sealcoat, a liquid sprayed on asphalt parking lots and driveways, can cause an elevated potential cancer risk for humans and toxicity in aquatic life.