Climate Change
Health and Disease Threats

Summary

CLIMATE CHANGE: Health and Disease Threats

Presented in Collaboration with The GroundTruth Project
Part of The Andelot Series on Current Science Controversies

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris has produced a landmark agreement to slow global warming. Among the conference’s discussions, though, the health impacts of climate change have featured less prominently on the agenda than other concerns. Yet, droughts, floods, heat waves, and air pollution related to climate change produce rippling effects that impact food production, infectious disease spread, chronic illnesses, and more. Dwindling resources force people to leave their homes and abandon traditional lifestyles, creating populations on the move with serious health impacts. In this Forum, public health and policy experts picked up where COP21 left off, taking on the critical piece of health within the climate change conversation.

Brief Video Highlights

Part of: .

Presented in Collaboration with The GroundTruth Project

  • The Forum Moderator

    Welcome everyone! We will start in about 15 minutes.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We’ll start in just a few minutes.

  • Bunmi

    OK, I am so excited!

    • The Forum Moderator

      We’re so glad you could join us. If you have a question for our panelists, you can post it here or email it to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu. We’ll have a brief Q&A at the end of our discussion.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Welcome everyone. We’re starting in a moment.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We have begun!

  • The Forum Moderator

    This event is in collaboration with The GroundTruth Project.

  • The Forum Moderator

    The GroundTruth Project has covered the Paris Conference extensively. Coverage is here: http://thegroundtruthproject.org/blog/

  • The Forum Moderator

    This clip is courtesy of Reuters.

  • The Forum Moderator

    The COP21 agreement that was reached over the weekend was an emotional and historic moment. The related press release that explains more about the agreement can be read here: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/finale-cop21/

  • Julian

    Hoping that panelists can address public health issues related to carbon offsetting and carbon trading. Rather than reducing emissions at the source (which are often in communities of color burdened by pollution and suffering from numerous health disparities), carbon offsets allow for continued emissions (along with co-pollutants) to burden frontline communities in exchange for credits from offset projects elsewhere. Besides being ineffective at actually reducing emissions, this system allows for continued concentration of air pollution – and therefore health impacts – in frontline communities…

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks Julian for your comment. I will pass it along.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Maria Neira joins us today from the World Health Organization in Geneva. The WHO mounted a side event at COP21 about public health and climate change. The agency also posted key messages here: http://www.who.int/globalchange/mediacentre/events/cop21-key-messages/en/

  • The Forum Moderator

    That clip is courtesy of PRI’s The World and the full video can be seen here:

  • The Forum Moderator

    The story that Charlie Sennott just referenced regarding the Philippines and Typhoon Melor is here: http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-15/can-private-investment-help-vulnerable-cities-adapt-climate-change

  • The Forum Moderator

    Do you have a question for our panelists? Post it here or email it to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Charlie has raised the issue of the impact of climate change on women in particularly. GroundTruth coverage about this is here: http://thegroundtruthproject.org/bearing-the-greatest-consequences-women-call-for-an-end-to-global-conflict/

  • The Forum Moderator

    The full-length video of this webcast will be posted on this site later this week.

  • The Forum Moderator

    To read more about President Faust’s insights into the role of universities in addressing climate change, you can read this Harvard Gazette piece: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/10/faust-step-up-on-climate-change/

  • Lorem_Ipsum2

    my understanding of the link between climate change and the Arab spring: Fires and heat in Ukraine and other wheat exporters forced the Egyptian government to back off on the subsidy of bread, which proved to be essential in shoring up the regime’s support among Egypt’s poor.

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thank you for your comment.

  • Baruaha

    Hi a small question – how do we forecast the spatial aspects of climate change ?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thank you.

  • Michael

    As with NO SMOKING signage in medical settings, we in health care must start posting signs and brochures informing, warning and advising our patients and publics about the coming climate hazards and the need for behavior and policy changes.

    • The Forum Moderator

      Great suggestion.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We’ll be wrapping up in a few minutes. We thank all of you for joining us today.

  • The Forum Moderator

    If you missed any of this discussion, you can watch it in full on this site later this week. We’ll also post on YouTune and iTunesU.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We thank our collaborator, The GroundTruth Project, and moderator Charlie Sennott and his team.

  • The Forum Moderator

    This event was part of the Andelot Series on Current Science Controversies.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Join us again on January 15, 2016, when will cover “Cancer and Diet: The Latest on Processed Meats, Fats and More”, 12:30-1:30pm, at ForumHSPH.org.

  • Michael

    It is also long past time to curtail CME fossil-profligate jet-setting to far off exotic places for lectures and R&R. Jet flights are major contributors to individual carbon footprints.

    • Rosalie

      I totally agree about the need to curtail jet flights, Michael. I was sorry to see the panelists mention how fatigued they are from flying with no sense of irony.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Thank you again!

  • The Forum Moderator

    The following questions came in from the Forum email site-

    Dr. David Pencheon, Director of the
    Sustainable Development Unit of the National Health Service in England, he’s
    writing in from the UK:

    We know a lot about
    the problems, threats of climate change and health but the specific actions
    that health systems, health organizations and health professionals can take now
    that a) send out a powerful message b) deliver co-benefits at scale and pace
    and c) are publicly acceptable and impactful are perhaps less well
    framed. We have tried in this country with an ambitious and widely consulted
    Strategy: first focusing on Carbon reduction (2009) and now more broadly on
    sustainable development (2014). Can we scale this sort of approach up
    globally? We spent a lot of time re: tobacco (possibly TOO long) on the
    evidence of problems and many people now suggest we were too slow on the
    evidence of solutions, well implemented… What do the panel suggest we do,
    together, and how?

  • The Forum Moderator

    The following questions came in from the Forum email site-

    Samantha De Leon Sautu, National Officer of
    Public Health, at IFMSA Panama

    Warm greetings
    from Panama City, Panama. I would like to quickly drop by a question addressed
    to any of the panelists: Which do you think are the best ways to engage young
    medical students and doctors in advocating for mitigation and adaptation
    strategies for climate change?

  • The Forum Moderator

    The following questions came in from the Forum email site-

    I would like to ask the speakers to address the intersection of our traditional concerns with
    health equity, as framed within the public health community today, and the
    likely impact of climate related health threats on low income and vulnerable
    populations. The “health equity” conversation still seems
    lagging on this.

  • The Forum Moderator

    The following questions came in from the Forum email site-

    I read somewhere that almost 90% of climate change related illnesses and health problems occur in children under the age of five. And many of these are ozone-related and heat issues. Can you talk a bit about the effects on children, specifically, and why this isn’t part of the larger dialogue in a more critical way?

  • The Forum Moderator

    The following questions came in from the Forum email site-

    How are potential health impacts measured– for example, how
    do you figure out how many potential illnesses or deaths could occur from ozone
    depletion and air pollution, or infectious disease patterns or food shortages? Are there projections like this available for the next fifty to 100 years, as there are for sea level rise and melting of the
    ice caps? The climate accord will only cut greenhouse gas emissions by half of what is needed to avert catastrophe, at the best. If we could quantify the health and disease effects more clearly and persuasively we could mobilize more global support moving forward.

  • The Forum Moderator

    The following questions came in from the Forum email-

    I believe that about half of the US population lives in coastal regions. The combined effects of sea level rise and powerful storms would lead to water contamination, alone, that would be disastrous, not to mention other health problems that result from extreme weather events like hurricanes and storm surges. Why aren’t we taking more steps to address infrastructure in our coastal communities right now, especially in the
    southeast Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas? What can we do to move the action forward given the threats to human health in these areas?

  • The Forum Moderator

    The follow question came from Forum email

    How are we going to ramp up air conditioning in urban areas to mitigate the effects of temperature-related illnesses from increasing heat waves? Air conditioning also is damaging to the climate. Can you talk a bit more about this and other ways to build structures that can help people adapt to the growing problem of extreme heat in urban areas?