The brain on climate change
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

The brain on climate change

The Climate, Health & Equity Brief is GMMB’s take on the latest news on the current impacts of climate change. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so by clicking here.

Hot Topic: Mind games. While the connections between climate change and health ailments such as heat stroke, respiratory disease, and pest, food, and water-borne illnesses are well documented, a new Lancet-published study sheds light on a growing area of concern: brain health.

Researchers reviewed more than 300 studies examining environmental impacts on 19 neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, epilepsy, migraine, and stroke, as well as psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. The results show “clear evidence” that many neurological conditions can worsen as the planet warms, and that environmental factors can increase their prevalence and heighten their associated risk of hospital admission, disability and death.

While intensity varied across conditions, researchers found that the severity of strokes, epileptic seizures and mental health disorders worsened during heat waves. They also found that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia saw worsening symptoms and that depression, schizophrenia, and suicidal ideation could be triggered by hotter temperatures. Study authors say the fact that neurological diseases and their treatments can undermine the body’s ability to thermoregulate appears to be a key driver, though more research is urgently needed.

According to another new study, the number of people age 60+ who are regularly exposed to extreme heat will double by 2050, making the scale of potential climate impact on neurological disorders even more substantial. What’s more, some scientists express concern that rising temperatures, increases in pollution and escalating exposure to microplastics—all byproducts of human reliance on fossil fuels—could cause neurological disorders to begin to present decades earlier in life, underscoring the urgent need for a clean energy transition for the sake of human health.

Human Health

A new study published in Lancet Neurology found “clear evidence” that extreme temperatures have an impact on brain health, exacerbating symptoms and potentially leading to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths due to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, stroke, epilepsy, and mental health disorders. (Bloomberg, Fast Company)

A new report found that migraines—which affect 39 million American adults and are known to be triggered by weather changes—are increasing in both frequency and intensity, with the disabling impact they have on sufferers’ daily lives nearly doubling since 2004. (NBC)

New research shows that the number of people aged 60+ worldwide who are regularly exposed to extreme heat will at least double by 2050, underscoring the need for adaptation plans to protect the vulnerable in a warming world. (NPR)

A new analysis of last month’s extreme heat across Asia found it was made 45 times more likely in South Asia due to climate change, and that without human-caused planetary heating, the extreme heat in the Philippines would have been “virtually impossible.” (Axios)

Planetary Health

NOAA is warning that 2024 will see the worst hurricane season in decades due to record-hot ocean temperatures, predicting 17 to 25 tropical storms, eight to 13 of which are likely to become hurricanes, including four to seven “major” hurricanes. (The Washington Post)

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, by examining the rings of 10,000 trees across nine regions of the Northern Hemisphere, scientists have determined that summer 2023 was the hottest in 2,000 years, a phenomenon they attribute primarily to the burning of fossil fuels. (The New York Times)

A new analysis revealed that the deadly and highly destructive storms that plagued the U.K. and Ireland from October to March were made 10 times more likely and 20% wetter by climate change, with such storms now expected every five years instead of every 50 years in the region. (The Guardian)


A new investigation has found that wealthy nations are reaping billions from a global program meant to help developing countries adapt to climate change by providing market-rate loans rather than grants and requiring aid recipients to purchase materials and hire companies from donor countries. (Reuters)

A new report by the GAO found that federal agencies frequently fail to collect the same amount of data about U.S. island territories as they do for states, which advocates warn could hinder efforts to address environmental justice and climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. (Grist)

Politics & Economy

President Biden’s decision to pause new permits for gas export terminals has catalyzed a $7.3 million donation influx to Donald Trump from the oil and gas industry—more than three times what the industry had contributed to Trump by the same period in 2020. (The New York Times)

Twenty states led by Republican attorneys general have sued to block Biden Administration efforts to speed up permitting for renewable energy and other infrastructure projects, claiming the proposed rule changes will raise prices and slow development. (E&E News)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a new law that strikes references to climate change from all state statutes, bans wind turbines offshore or near the state’s coastline, boosts natural gas production and reduces regulations on gas pipelines. (NPR)

A new survey found that 90% of Floridians believe climate change is happening—18 points higher than Americans overall—but only 58% believe human activity is responsible for climate change. (

Microsoft’s latest sustainability report shows their carbon emissions have increased by 30% since 2020—one of the first examples of how investments in power-intensive A.I. systems are jeopardizing efforts to cut emissions and reach net-zero goals. (Bloomberg)

Life as We Know It

Experts at the EPA, NRDC and other groups are underscoring the virtues of switching to cold water for laundry, dishwashing, and showers, citing significant reductions in residential energy consumption, consumer utility costs, and carbon emissions. (The Washington Post)

Melting glaciers, wildfire-ravaged trees, and cacti struggling to survive are just three examples of the way climate change is ravaging America’s 63 national parks, with the National Park Service conceding that even with critical interventions, preservation may not be achievable in some of America’s most beloved natural spaces. (CBS News)

Studies show that clear-air flight turbulence is worsening as atmospheric warming increases variations in wind direction and speed, posing new safety risks and challenges for airlines and passengers. (Bloomberg)

U.S. community colleges are increasingly offering specialized training in EV maintenance, wind energy technology, solar panel installation, and smart building technology, driven by student interest and legislative investments in clean energy. (A.P. News)

Sesame Workshop—the non-profit that produces Sesame Street—has partnered with Save the Children to tell stories that will help kids and their families cope with the extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. (Los Angeles Times)


Tuvalu, a tiny South Pacific island nation highly vulnerable to coastal flooding and sea level rise, is partnering with an A.I. weather forecasting firm to better predict and prepare for storms, as the technology can be run faster and on cheaper machines than those National Weather Service. (Axios)

Oakland, California, will become the first major U.S. school district to use an all-electric school bus fleet, with the 74 vehicles supplying enough electricity to the Bay Area grid to power up to 400 homes, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 25,000 tons annually. (Bloomberg)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) passed a rule requiring grid operators to plan based on expected needs in 20 years to tailor grid expansion to lower costs, build resilience in extreme weather, and increase clean energy capacity. (The New York Times)

In a victory for small islands threatened by global warming-related sea level rise, a maritime court found greenhouse gases constitute marine pollution, setting an important precedent for future cases. (Reuters)


Check out a new set of free educational resources on climate change and health created by the University of California’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity and the American Medical Association. (AMA)

A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.”

Dr. Margaret Chan, former director-general of the World Health Organization

The GMMB Climate, Health & Equity Brief would not be possible without the contributions of the larger GMMB team—Aaron Benavides, Stefana Hendronetto, Nikki Melamed, Sharde Olabanji and Marci Welford. Feedback on the Brief is welcome and encouraged and should be sent to