How climate change impacts health

Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns
Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns on the hills near Shaver Lake, Calif., on Sept. 5, 2020. Fires in the Sierra National Forest have prompted evacuation orders as authorities urged people seeking relief from the Labor Day weekend heat wave to stay away from the popular lake.
Eric Paul Zamora | Fresno Bee via AP

We may think of COVID-19 as the great health risk of the century, but climate change may pose a bigger threat. 

As Minnesota becomes warmer and wetter, heat waves and extreme weather events have become more common, putting strain on the elderly, the very young and people with frail hearts. 

People with asthma and other respiratory illnesses now endure more days of poor air quality, worsened by moist summers and smoke from the wildfires in Canada. People with allergies suffer from an extended pollen season, including ragweed pollen that now sticks around two to three weeks longer than it did in the 1990s. Diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes are also on the rise as insects' ranges shift along with the climate. 

MPR News host Angela Davis talked with two doctors about what health impacts they see in their practice connected to climate change. She also spoke with MPR News chief meteorologist Paul Huttner about the relationship between recent weather and broader climate trends in Minnesota.


  • Dr. Kathy Kulus is a pediatrician and medical director of the pediatric hospital medicine program for CentraCare Health in St. Cloud.

  • Dr. John Mahowald is a cardiologist and a founder of the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center in St. Cloud. 

  • Paul Huttner is the chief meteorologist of MPR News.

Use the audio player above to listen to the program.

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