Covering only the direct health impacts of climate change misses half the story, a panel advises reporters at SEJ’s annual conference.

LUBBOCK, TX — Katharine Hayhoe, a climatologist, says global impacts from climate change will affect human health in ways not yet imagined.

For journalists reporting on the intersection of climate change and human health, covering only the top three direct impacts — illness and mortality from heat and cold extremes, air quality and respiratory health, and geographic shifts in infectious diseases — means half the story remains untold. Hayhoe says these indirect impacts could dwarf the current focus of climate change-health reporting.

Katharine Hayhoe urges media to go beyond just ‘direct’ health effects in reporting on climate change impacts.

Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center and associate professor at Texas Tech University, joined two other climate and health experts on a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists. “Climate change is going to affect our food supply and water resources. It is going to lead to floods and droughts. It will impact our infrastructures, and the potential impacts of these things far exceeds the three things we mostly commonly talk about,” Hayhoe said.

Consider parched, dry soil that leads to famine; torrents from floods that ruin infrastructure and disrupt transportation; and extreme weather that causes injuries and shuts down hospitals.

Much of the health and climate change literature features solid science on direct impacts from climate change, and the most up-to-date information is summarized in the

Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...