Interaction of warming climate with a growing, shifting population could subject more people to sweltering conditions
NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH/UNIVERSITY CORPORATION FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH
BOULDER – U.S. residents’ exposure to extreme heat could increase four- to six-fold by mid-century, due to both a warming climate and a population that’s growing especially fast in the hottest regions of the country, according to new research.
The study, by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the City University of New York (CUNY), highlights the importance of considering societal changes when trying to determine future climate impacts.
“Both population change and climate change matter,” said NCAR scientist Brian O’Neill, one of the study’s co-authors. “If you want to know how heat waves will affect health in the future, you have to consider both.”
Extreme heat kills more people in the United States than any other weather-related event, and scientists generally expect the number of deadly heat waves to increase as the climate warms. The new study, published May 18 in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds that the overall exposure of Americans to these future heat waves would be vastly underestimated if the role of population changes were ignored.
The total number of people exposed to extreme heat is expected to increase the most in cities across the country’s southern reaches, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Tampa, and San Antonio.
he average annual exposure to extreme heat in the United States during the study period is expected to be between 10 and 14 billion person-days, compared to an annual average of 2.3 billion person-days between 1971 and 2000.
Of that increase, roughly a third is due solely to the warming climate (the increase in exposure to extreme heat that would be expected even if the population remained unchanged). Another third is due solely to population change (the increase in exposure that would be expected if climate remained unchanged but the population continued to grow and people continued to moved to warmer places). The final third is due to the interaction between the two (the increase in exposure expected because the population is growing fastest in places that are also getting hotter).
“We asked, ‘Where are the people moving? Where are the climate hot spots? How do those two things interact?'” said NCAR scientist Linda Mearns, also a study co-author. “When we looked at the country as a whole, we found that each factor had relatively equal effect.”
At a regional scale, the picture is different. In some areas of the country, climate change packs a bigger punch than population growth and vice versa.
For example, in the U.S. Mountain region–defined by the Census Bureau as the area stretching from Montana and Idaho south to Arizona and New Mexico–the impact of a growing population significantly outstrips the impact of a warming climate. But the opposite is true in the South Atlantic region, which encompasses the area from West Virginia and Maryland south through Florida.
Exposure vs. vulnerability
Regardless of the relative role that population or climate plays, some increase in total exposure to extreme heat is expected in every region of the continental United States. Even so, the study authors caution that exposure is not necessarily the same thing as vulnerability.
“Our study does not say how vulnerable or not people might be in the future,” O’Neill said. “We show that heat exposure will go up, but we don’t know how many of the people exposed will or won’t have air conditioners or easy access to public health centers, for example.”
Extreme heat kills more people in the U.S. than any other weather-related event, and scientists generally expect the number of deadly heat waves to increase as the climate warms. According to new research, exposure could increase four- to six-fold by mid-century, due to both a warming climate and a population that’s growing especially fast in the hottest regions of the country. Using a newly developed demographic model, the scientists also studied how the U.S. population is expected to grow and shift regionally during the same time period, assuming current migration trends within the country continue. The study highlights the importance of considering societal changes when trying to determine future climate impacts. The total number of people exposed to extreme heat is expected to increase the most in cities across the country’s southern reaches, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Tampa and San Antonio.
….The world is at a dire turning point in the fight against climate change. If the world doesn’t begin taking action to mitigate the impact of climate change the outcomes will be catastrophic (even though some research is saying that’s going to happen, regardless).
A growing discussion in the United States is how we are equipping future citizens, business leaders, health leaders, etc. to be part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating those risks. But according to my preliminary research in climate change science being integrated into science curriculum, we aren’t doing that at all. From personal experience with a Bachelors of Science in Applied Sciences in Public Health, I have never had a professor talk about climate change nor talk about solutions and how we as public health professionals fit into different roles. If young adults and children aren’t aware of climate change, how is it ever going to be brought to the forefront of discussion? How is change going to happen? Sure, federal and state governments can use the power of public policy to control emissions, but what about the solutions to the inevitable problem looming? Solutions such as emergency preparedness planning (since we can safely assume this is going to be a needed expertise), green space, active transportation, infrastructure to prevent rising sea levels from flooding major cities, etc.
As progressive public health departments move towards allocating resources to chronic disease prevention (and obviously, rightfully so), it will be incredibly important to ensure emergency preparedness, epidemiology, and environmental health aren’t lost in the mix. Professionals in health communications and community engagement will be critical pieces, but ultimately don’t have the legal authority of an Environmental Health professional to enforce state and federal mandates, nor have the expertise in emergency preparedness. This is a call for sustained and increased funding for local health departments. The climate change discussion is happening internationally and on a federal level, but those discussions aren’t trickling down to the local level. I would attribute this to climate change being a backburner issue and one that doesn’t have an acute impact (like an Ebola outbreak). The impacts are longitudinal and over long periods of time.
[Deep down I believe that climate change should not be addressed as a threat to our security, but as a threat against all of us humans. If we do not unite on a global basis, surely this will be a disaster for all of us. Climate disruption (it is not simple change!) knows no boundaries. The effects cannot be stopped at any border.]
Changes in sea level during the last 9,000 years (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Climate change is a threat multiplier, and the Defense Department is taking steps to incorporate this issue into all planning.
ASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2014 – Climate change is a threat multiplier, and the Defense Department is taking steps to incorporate this issue into all planning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Peru today.
Climate change has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges the world already confronts, from the spread of infectious diseases to spurring armed conflicts, Hagel said at the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas.
“The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere,” he said. “Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline and trigger waves of mass migration.”
This already happening in the Sahel region of Africa, where desertification is placing millions at risk, and climate extremes in Australia are worrying leaders there. The Western Hemisphere is not immune, Hagel said. “Two of the worst droughts in the Americas have occurred in the past 10 years – droughts that used to occur once a century,” he added.
“In the Caribbean, sea level rise may claim 1,200 square miles of coastal land in the next 50 years, and some islands may have to be completely evacuated,” the secretary said. “According to some estimates, rising temperatures could melt entire glaciers in the Andes, which could have cascading economic and security consequences.”
These climate trends clearly will have implications for regional militaries, Hagel said, as more extreme weather will cause more natural disasters and military personnel will be called on to deliver humanitarian assistance and relief.
“Our coastal installations could be vulnerable to rising shorelines and flooding, and extreme weather could impair our training ranges, supply chains and critical equipment,” the secretary said. “Our militaries’ readiness could be tested, and our capabilities could be stressed.”
Climate change roadmap
Hagel announced a Defense Department Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap during his speech. The roadmap is based on science, he said, and describes the effects of climate change on DoD’s missions and responsibilities.
“We have nearly completed a baseline survey to assess the vulnerability of our military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities,” Hagel said. “Drawing on these assessments, we will integrate climate change considerations into our planning, operations and training.”
Climate change affects everyone, and DoD will work with partner nations bilaterally and multilaterally to address the threat, the secretary said. “We will share our findings, our tools for assessment and our plans for resiliency,” he added. “We will also seek to learn from partner nations’ experiences as well.”
Hagel encouraged the Western Hemisphere nations represented at the conference to participate in the Defense Environmental International Cooperation program. “I recognize that our militaries play different roles and have different responsibilities in each of our nations,” he said. “I also recognize that climate change will have different impacts in different parts of the hemisphere. But there are many opportunities to work together.”
Peru will host a United Nations convention on climate change in two months, Hagel noted, adding that the militaries of the world must be part of the discussion. “We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be pro-active in addressing them,” he said.
The Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions (CSAS) team at Columbia University has a specific, targeted goal: a near universal carbon fee on fossil fuels. The group’s mission statement, under About Us, is a great place to start. Then explore Dr. James Hansen’s TED talk, an eighteen minute argument for the political responsibilities of climate scientists as well as regular citizens. The section titled Our Work will take readers to five headings – Climate Research, Climate Data, Public Awareness and Policy Solutions, 350.org, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and Our Children’s Trust – each of which links to timely and educational projects. Finally, the In the News section features videos and articles showcasing the work of Dr. Hansen and his fellow climate activists. [CNH]
Polar bears aren’t the only species threatened by climate change. Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, has spent the last two decades studying the ways that a warming world will affect human health. In 2007, he shared the Nobel Prize as a lead author for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Patz, who holds degrees in medicine and public health, crisscrosses the globe to spread the word about the far-reaching impacts of climate change on our health and why better urban planning might be the answer.
When we think about the effects of climate change on our health, most of us probably think about big events like heat waves. Are there other, overlooked implications for public health?
One of the reasons I think that climate change poses an enormous public health risk is because of the multiple pathways through which the impacts will be experienced. When you have a heat wave, you get worsening of pollution effects. Also higher temperatures promote more ragweed pollen, and then all sorts of infectious diseases. There are so many diseases very sensitive to small shifts in temperature. It’s also extremes of the water cycle. Already we don’t handle heavy rainfall events very well. When it rains really hard, you’re going to find bacteria and viruses in the water.
But I think one of the biggest problems that’s the most difficult to study and document, could be the disruption of big populations: droughts forcing people to move, sea level rise. These are going to cause population-wide disruption, social upheaval. I think this could be a huge burden with mental health, post-traumatic stress, and things like that.
The disparity in carbon emissions (shown in the upper map) and prevalence of climate-senstive disease (lower map) between industrialized and non-industrialized countries is an ethical problem. Image by Jeff Miller, UW-Madison.
You’ve said that the way climate change is affecting our health is an ethical issue.
Where are today’s most climate-sensitive diseases like malaria, malnutrition, diarrheal disease? They’re mostly in poor countries, especially Africa and India. Then you ask the question, who’s causing global warming? Global warming is primarily from burning fossil fuels — that’s in the industrialized world. That’s the huge ethical dilemma. Those most vulnerable are the least responsible.
When I was meeting with the Dalai Lama two years ago, I was explaining to him that we didn’t know when we were developing the steam engine and oil- and gas-powered vehicles and powering our electricity with coal, we didn’t know that it was a bad thing. So now we know that. And the Dalai Lama asked me, he said, “Well, wait a minute, now that you know that, why are you still burning fossil fuels? It’s no longer ethical, with that knowledge.” I said to him, “That’s a good question. That’s a very good question.”
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. Are there concrete things people can do that will mitigate some of the negative effects on our health?
Well, this is the exciting piece of this that I really think is important. With every crisis there’s an opportunity.
The automobile, the dependence on the automobile, is really a very costly design for our health. We actually quantified the economic benefit and the health benefit if you took the 11 largest cities in the upper Midwest and you asked the question, what if short car trips, trips that are two and a half miles, were taken off the road? What would it mean for urban air quality? We found that we would save 500 lives a year, hundreds of thousands in hospitalizations, and about four billion dollars every year in savings from avoided health costs.
Now, what if half of those short car trips become bicycle trips, and only during the summer? That would save another 700 lives per year because of physical fitness. So we’re talking about eight billion dollars, about 1,300 lives saved. So, this is a golden opportunity — a huge public health dividend — to be able to design cities and design transportation for active transit, for biking, for walking.
You bike to work, right? Even in the Wisconsin winter?
I have recently bought studded snow tires and I do bike to work, but that’s not actually the message that I want to portray. Because I would say while I bike to work in the winter, I do it for speed and convenience. If I lived further away, I would probably take the bus.
Scientists Urge Focus on New Branch of Environmental Health
NEW YORK (November 19, 2013) — A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.
Looking comprehensively at available research to date, the paper’s authors highlight repeated correlations between changes in natural systems and existing and potential human health outcomes, including:
Forest fires used to clear land in Indonesia generate airborne particulates that are linked to cardiopulmonary disease in downwind population centers like Singapore.
Risk of human exposure to Chagas disease in Panama and the Brazilian Amazon, and to Lyme disease in the United States, is positively correlated with reduced mammalian diversity.
When households in rural Madagascar are unable to harvest wild meat for consumption, their children can experience a 30% higher risk of iron deficiency anemia—a condition that increases the risk for sickness and death from infectious disease, and reduces IQ and the lifelong capacity for physical activity.
In Belize, nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff hundreds of miles upstream causes a change in the vegetation pattern of lowland wetlands that favors more efficient malaria vectors, leading to increased malaria exposure among coastal populations.
Human health impacts of anthropogenic climate change include exposure to heat stress, air pollution, infectious disease, respiratory allergens, and natural hazards as well as increased water scarcity, food insecurity and population displacement.
“Human activity is affecting nearly all of Earth’s natural systems—altering the planet’s land cover, rivers and oceans, climate, and the full range of complex ecological relationships and biogeochemical cycles that have long sustained life on Earth,” said Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “Defining a new epoch, the Anthropocene, these changes and their effects put in question the ability of the planet to provide for a human population now exceeding 7 billion with an exponentially growing demand for goods and services.”
This post is a part of our Bioethics in the News series. For more information, click here.
By Sean A. Valles, Ph.D.
After winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has returned to the headlines. Heeding the growing body of climate evidence, they say, “it is extremely likely [95%-100% likely] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (IPCC Working Group I 2013, pp. SPM-2, SPM-12). Unfortunately, according to a March Gallup poll:
In contrast to majority acceptance of global warming as real, Gallup finds Americans less than alarmed. One-third worry “a great deal,” and 34% expect it to threaten their way of life. These could be the attitudes that matter most when it comes to Americans’ support for public policies designed to address the issue (Saad 2013).
That skepticism about climate change’s seriousness (and, to a lesser extent, about humans’ responsibility for it) is impeding democratic action in the US. The leadership provided by a skeptical vocal minority has turned the public dialogue into a dispute over uncertainties in how we predict future climate, whether it is accusing researchers of inadequate “objectivity” (LaFramboise 2013) or publicizing pieces of climate data that seem inadequately explained (Darwall 2013). I encourage my bioethics colleagues to help change the conversation, and re-frame the US climate change dialogue to focus on one crucial fact: even with lingering uncertainties, climate change poses health risks that we would be foolish to ignore.
A 2009 special report by TheLancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission declares, “climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1693). These are bold words, especially coming from TheLancet—one of the most prestigious medical journals. The report lists a number of health risks: more numerous heat waves will worsen respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1702), mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases will spread and flourish in newly warm areas (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1702), and extreme weather events will become more common and stronger (impacting mental health, access to food, access to sanitation infrastructure, etc.) (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1706). The list goes on, and policy groups such as the EPA have demonstrated that they take it quite seriously. A recent article in Bioethics by Cheryl Cox MacPherson explains that such risks make it clear “Climate Change Is a Bioethics Problem” (MacPherson 2013, p. 305).
Unfortunately, bioethicists’ involvement in the climate change dialogue—a crucialmedical dialogue—has been the exception rather than the norm. Bioethicists are already expert communicators, researchers, interdisciplinary collaborators, and public advocates in the management of multiple intersecting risks and ethical considerations. They apply this expertise to issues such as tissue donation, vaccination, and pharmaceutical testing. I recommend that they add climate change to their list of priorities. Economic constraints, individual liberty, public welfare, being mindful of social justice; these sorts of difficult climate change considerations are very much in bioethicists’ wheelhouse.
Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recent research on science communication indicates that pragmatically it would be a wise strategy to move health out of the background in the climate change dialogue. A recent study compared audience responses to three different presentations of climate change, “emphasizing either the risks to the environment, public health, or national security;” the researchers found that, “across audience segments, a public health focus was the most likely to elicit emotional reactions consistent with support for climate change mitigation and adaptation” (Myers, et al. 2012, p. 1105). Maibach et al. explains that the “dominant mental frame used by most members of the public to organize their conceptions about climate change is that of ‘climate change as an environmental problem’” (Maibach, et al. 2010, p. 2). We all hear plenty of talk about ‘saving the environment,’ but switching to a health frame would offer important benefits.
Re-defining climate change in public health terms should help people make connections to already familiar problems such as asthma, allergies, and infectious diseases experienced in their communities. The frame also presents the opportunity to involve additional trusted communication partners on the issue, notably public health experts and local community leaders (Maibach, et al. 2010, pp. 9-10).
Pictures of forlorn polar bears floating on melting blocks of ice have proved compelling for some people, but a health-centered approach looks more promising as a default strategy.
Source: International Journal of Global Warming
From press release (EurekAlert!):
An open access special issue of the International Journal of Global Warming brings together, for the first time, empirical evidence of loss and damage from the perspective of affected people in nine vulnerable countries. The articles in this special issue show how climatic stressors affect communities, what measures households take to prevent loss and damage, and what the consequences are when they are unable to adjust sufficiently. The guest-editors, Kees van der Geest and Koko Warner of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn, Germany, introduce the special issue with an overview of key findings from the nine research papers, all of which are available online free of charge.
‘Loss and damage’ refers to adverse effects of climate variability and climate change that occur despite mitigation and adaptation efforts. Warner and van der Geest discuss the loss and damage incurred by people at the local-level based on evidence from research teams working in nine vulnerable countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Micronesia, Mozambique and Nepal. The research papers pool data from 3269 household surveys and more than 200 focus groups and expert interviews.
The research reveals four loss and damage pathways. Residual impacts of climate stressors occur when:
existing coping/adaptation to biophysical impact is not enough;
measures have costs (including non-economic) that cannot be regained;
despite short-term merits, measures have negative effects in the longer term; or
no measures are adopted – or possible – at all.
The articles in this special issue provide evidence that loss and damage happens simultaneously with efforts by people to adjust to climatic stressors. The evidence illustrates loss and damage around barriers and limits to adaptation: growing food and livelihood insecurity, unreliable water supplies, deteriorating human welfare and increasing manifestation of erosive coping measures (e.g. eating less, distress sale of productive assets to buy food, reducing the years of schooling for children, etc.). These negative impacts touch upon people’s welfare and health, social cohesion, culture and identity – values that contribute to the functioning of society but which elude monetary valuation.
In the summer of 2012, the mosquito-borne West Nile virus made a surprising comeback in America. In Dallas, the most affected region, 400 people contracted the disease and 19 of them died. That came as a shock to public health officials, since West Nile virus was thought to be in such precipitous decline that it was practically eradicated.
Now, a little detective work has led epidemiologists to the reason for its resurgence: warmer winters and wetter springs. In other words, the consequences of global climate change are fueling West Nile. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Health officials expect the number of people contracting other infectious diseases to rise right alongside global temperatures.
The diseases that are propagated by climate change tend to come in fungal, algal, tick-borne, and mosquito-borne forms. For instance, dengue fever — which causes a high fever, painful head and body aches, and rashes — will likely continue infecting Americans in hot and humid climates, as well as regions that are close to warming oceans:
English: Air conditioning at the O2 Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While many offices claim the cool temperatures are for computer performance…I think there is a better way to cool the computers without supercooling the office and building.
As the writer says, it is the overuse and supercooling which adds to global climate change.
Earlier this week, as the temperature in New York City hit the upper 90s and the heat index topped 100, my utility provider issued a heat alert and advised customers to use air-conditioning “wisely.” It was a nice, polite gesture but also an utterly ineffectual one. After all, despite our other green tendencies, most Americans still believe that the wise way to use air conditioners is to crank them up, cooling down every room in the house — or even better, relax in the cold blasts of a movie theater or shopping mall, where someone else pays the bills. Today Americans use twice as much energy for air-conditioning as we did 20 years ago, and more than the rest of the world’s nations combined. As a climate-change adaptation strategy, this is as dumb as it gets.
I’m hardly against air-conditioning. During heat waves, artificial cooling can save the lives of…
As the world’s climate continues to change, hazards to human health are increasing. The Atlas of health and climate, published today jointly by WHO and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), illustrates some of the most pressing current and emerging challenges.
Droughts, floods and cyclones affect the health of millions of people each year. Climate variability and extreme conditions such as floods can also trigger epidemics of diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria, dengue and meningitis, which cause death and suffering for many millions more. The Atlas gives practical examples of how the use of weather and climate information can protect public health.
Climate risk management
“Prevention and preparedness are the heart of public health. Risk management is our daily bread and butter. Information on climate variability and climate change is a powerful scientific tool that assists us in these tasks,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “Climate has a profound impact on the lives, and survival, of people. Climate services can have a profound impact on improving these lives, also through better health outcomes.”
Until now, climate services have been an underutilized resource for public health.
“Stronger cooperation between the meteorological and health communities is essential to ensure that up-to-date, accurate and relevant information on weather and climate is integrated into public health management at international, national and local levels. This Atlas is an innovative and practical example of how we can work together to serve society,” said WMO Secretary-General Mr Michel Jarraud.
Links between health and climate
Numerous maps, tables and graphs assembled in the Atlas make the links between health and climate more explicit:
In some locations the incidence of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, meningitis and cholera can vary by factors of more than 100 between seasons, and significantly between years, depending on weather and climate conditions. Stronger climate services in endemic countries can help predict the onset, intensity and duration of epidemics.
Case studies illustrate how collaboration between meteorological, emergency and health services is already saving lives. For example, the death toll from cyclones of similar intensity in Bangladesh reduced from around 500 000 in 1970, to 140 000 in 1991, to 3 000 in 2007 – largely thanks to improved early warning systems and preparedness.
Heat extremes that would currently be expected to occur only once in 20 years, may occur on average every 2-5 years by the middle of this century. At the same time, the number of older people living in cities (one of the most vulnerable groups to heat stress), will almost quadruple globally, from 380 million in 2010, to 1.4 billion in 2050. Cooperation between health and climate services can trigger measures to better protect people during periods of extreme weather.
Shifting to clean household energy sources would both reduce climate change, and save the lives of approximately 680 000 children a year from reduced air pollution. The Atlas also shows how meteorological and health services can collaborate to monitor air pollution and its health impacts.
In addition, the unique tool shows how the relationship between health and climate is shaped by other vulnerabilities, such as those created by poverty, environmental degradation, and poor infrastructure, especially for water and sanitation.
Environmental Health Ethics illuminates the conflicts between protecting the environment and promoting human health. In this study, David B. Resnik develops a method for making ethical decisions on environmental health issues. He applies this method to various issues, including pesticide use, antibiotic resistance, nutrition policy, vegetarianism, urban development, occupational safety, disaster preparedness, and global climate change. Resnik provides readers with the scientific and technical background necessary to understand these issues. He explains that environmental health controversies cannot simply be reduced to humanity versus environment and explores the ways in which human values and concerns – health, economic development, rights, and justice – interact with environmental protection.
• Develops a method for ethical decision-making for environmental health controversies which incorporates insights from traditional ethical theories and environmental ethics
• Covers a wide range of timely and important issues, ranging from pesticide use to global warming
• Provides a description of the relevant background information accessible to an audience of educated non-specialists
“Most of our evidence at this point is anecdotal,” said Jerome Paulson, MD, FAAP, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at George Washington University. “There really isn’t a lot of hard science on this yet.”
Paulson, an APHA member, cited a few studies — one from Wyoming that found increased levels of ozone near hydraulic fracturing sites and another by researchers at Duke who documented the presence of methane in well water near natural gas wells. But as of now, most of the indication that hydraulic fracturing might pose public health threats comes from people who live near the wells, who complain of headaches, nosebleeds, disorientation, fainting and sick animals. They say that family members have developed cancer and other chronic diseases as a result of being exposed either to the gas itself or to contaminated water resulting from its extraction.
Water is one of EPA’s biggest concerns. There is potential for chemicals used in the fracking process to leach into ground water and work their way into well water as well. The purpose of the agency’s study is to understand the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. It will examine the “full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing,” EPA officials said in a statement, from acquisition of the water through the mixing of chemicals and the fracturing to the post fracturing, including examining what happens with the water after the fracturing and how it is treated and disposed of.
Demonstrators protest against hydraulic fracturing in New York state at a news conference in New York City in January.
Photo by Spencer Platt, courtesy Getty Images
University of Pittsburgh researchers released as-yet unpublished data in 2011 indicating problems with wastewater disposal from shale gas extraction. They found that for some period of time, wastewater from fracking sites was taken to the publicly operated water treatment plant, but the facilities were not equipped to handle that wastewater. The water that emerged from the treatment plants was chemically different from what usually came out, Paulson said. That process has since slowed or stopped, Paulson said.
EPA expects to release its first report this year and complete the study in 2014. In January, the agency also said that it was going to take the step of having water delivered to four homes in Dimock, Pa., where a data review found the well water contains contaminants at a high enough level to raise concern. Some residents of Dimock say gas well drilling that has occurred in the area over the past three years has polluted their drinking water…
Other concerns in this article include earthquakes and air pollution
Karoo challenges us to use our minds and hearts to look to the truths of proposed stepping up of natural gas production.
“In response to T. Boone Pickens’ TED Talk, “Let’s tranform energy — with natural gas”, Jonathan Deal questions the promotion of natural gas and shale gas mining as a viable solution to future energy security. ”
Population Action International advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment. Our research and advocacy strengthen U.S. and international assistance for family planning. We work with local and national leaders in developing countries to improve their reproductive health care programs and policies. PAI shows how these programs are critical to global concerns, such as preventing HIV, combating the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, and strengthening national security.
How can we feed the 2.5 billion more people – an extra China and India – likely to be alive in 2050? The UN says we will have to nearly double our food production and governments say we should adopt new technologies and avoid waste, but however you cut it, there are already one billion chronically hungry people, there’s little more virgin land to open up, climate change will only make farming harder to grow food in most places, the oceans are overfished, and much of the world faces growing water shortages.
Fifty years ago, when the world’s population was around half what it is now, the answer to looming famines was “the green revolution” – a massive increase in the use of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers. It worked, but at a great ecological price. We grow nearly twice as much food as we did just a generation ago, but we use three times as much water from rivers and underground supplies.
Food, farm and water technologists will have to find new ways to grow more crops in places that until now were hard or impossible to farm. It may need a total rethink over how we use land and water. So enter a new generation of radical farmers, novel foods and bright ideas…….
The name “Data Day” may not conjure up visions of dramatic reversals of public policy. But the community advocates and data experts at the conference knew otherwise. Here are two stories they told about how data can change how we judge people and situations – both socially and legally.
Derrick Jackson, a columnist at the Boston Globe, said that data can bring “sanity” to public policy about justice and the environment. For example, he said, data helped to eliminate a double standard in sentencing urban and suburban young people who used cocaine. He said environmentalists should tell stories about climate change using data and use these stories to drive policy changes.
Although the EPA’s approach to reporting potential flooding may seem dry, reports on climate change indicators in the United States can also provide story ideas for journalists. If climate change produces floods or disrupts the growing season, superimposing those maps on maps of crop production could yield interesting results – especially for crops grown in low-lying areas. In some states, the answer to the question “What’s for dinner?” may be very different in a few years from what it is today.
Many of the particles in the atmosphere are produced by the natural world, and it is possible that plants have in recent decades reduced the effects of the greenhouse gases to which human activity has given rise. One consequence of this is that the climate may be more sensitive to emissions caused by human activity than we have previously believed. Scientists at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) have collected new data that may lead to better climate models.
“Emissions by plants to the atmosphere are influenced by climate change – higher temperatures can increase the rate of the biological processes that control the emissions. If natural emissions increase as the temperature rises, this in turn increases the amount of particles that are formed”, says Kent Salo of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Gothenburg
The interactions between particles and the climate constitute a very complex web of processes. …
After extending negotiations nearly two days beyond their originally scheduled deadline, negotiators at the climate change meeting in Durban have agreed on a set of agreements, including a high-profile deal called the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.” As discussed in my earlier post, the agenda at Durban was unusually complex, as it encompassed both relatively narrow discussions about how to implement earlier decisions as well as broad discussions about the future climate regime under complementary (and some might say competing) visions for international action. There were essentially three big questions at Durban, and all have been addressed, although not all in a meaningful manner.
The first question concerned the future of the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012, and some supporters argued that without a second commitment period, the agreement would cease to be relevant. As such, some countries—particularly developing countries—expressed their hopes that developed countries would agree to targets under a second commitment period. While many important developed countries did not sign up for second commitment periods (Japan, Russia, Canada) or were never part of the agreement (United States), the European Union did agree to implement its own targets for emissions reduction under the aegis of the Kyoto Protocol. This was a concession for some of the more vocal developing country parties and was tied to an understanding that there would likely not be a third commitment period. Thus, the Protocol was granted an extension, but it is also clear even to its supporters that its days are now limited. This decision was clearly linked to discussions on the second major question. …
The outcome of these protracted and contentious discussions was the Durban Platform, a compact, two-page document that sets out a motivation and process for reaching a new agreement by 2015.
This Platform contains three important elements. First, it notes a goal of keeping global temperature increases to “1.5 or 2.0 degrees C” above preindustrial levels—repeating targets from earlier agreements in Copenhagen and Cancun—and notes that current commitments are insufficient to reach that goal. This statement reinforces the developing norm that 1.5 or 2 degree warming is the appropriate target to balance risks versus costs in addressing climate change. Second, the Platform asserts that countries should “launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change applicable to all Parties.” ….
Third, it states that this agreement should be finished by 2015 and that any resulting reductions should begin by 2020. The 2015 deadline is relatively quick by international negotiations standards, putting pressure on parties to conclude a deal within the next few years. …
There were some other conclusions as well – for example, delegates agreed on procedures to incorporate carbon capture and sequestration projects into the Clean Development Mechanism and to guide projects that seek to reduce deforestation. Most of the attention, however, has focused on the Durban Platform. Unfortunately, the Platform itself is little more than an agreement to discuss a treaty. ..
A new research program funded by the National Institutes of Health will explore the role that a changing climate has on human health. Led by NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the program will research the risk factors that make people more vulnerable to heat exposure; changing weather patterns; changes in environmental exposures, such as air pollution and toxic chemicals; and the negative effects of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
In addition to better understanding the direct and indirect human health risks in the United States and globally, one of the program’s goals is to determine which populations will be more susceptible and vulnerable to diseases exacerbated by climate change. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and those living in urban or coastal areas and storm centers may be at elevated risk. This program will also help to develop data, methods, and models to support health impact predictions.
“Governments and policy makers need to know what the health effects from climate change are and who is most at risk,” said John Balbus, M.D., NIEHS senior advisor for public health and lead for NIEHS’ efforts on climate change. “The research from this program will help guide public health interventions, to ultimately prevent harm to the most vulnerable people.”
The funding program is an outgrowth of two previous efforts led by NIH. A December 2009 workshop, sponsored by a trans-NIH working group, brought leaders in the field together to begin identifying priorities for NIH climate change research. NIH then led the ad hoc Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health in developing an outline of research needs, which are described in a report available atwww.niehs.nih.gov/climatereport.
New demographic analysis reveals that the CO2 emissions of the average American increase until around the age of 65, and then start to decrease. For the United States this means that, although the aging of the population will lead to a slight overall rise in CO2emissions over the next four decades, the long-term trends indicate that increasing life expectancy will result in a reduction in emissions.
Do you live in a climate-ready city? How prepared is your state for the challenges to health and the environment being caused by climate change-from the dangers of extreme heat and increased flooding to the spread of ragweed whose pollen causes allergies or mosquitoes that can spread disease?
NRDC just unveiled an incredible web interactive that lets you see how your state might be impacted by climate change. On the site, nrdc.org, you can see local data and maps detailing extreme weather patterns throughout the country, see local climate change vulnerabilities and learn about health problems in your own community that are connected to climate change….
The article also touches on these topics
Things to remember about plants and heat
Global warming and drinking water availability
Which US cities can adapt best to higher temperatures (generally Midwestern cities)
This blog presents a sampling of health and medical news and resources for all. Selected articles and resources will hopefully be of general interest but will also encourage further reading through posted references and other links. Currently I am focusing on public health, basic and applied research and very broadly on disease and healthy lifestyle topics.
Several times a month I will post items on international and global health issues. My Peace Corps Liberia experience (1980-81) has formed me as a global citizen in many ways and has challenged me to think of health and other topics in a more holistic manner. (For those wishing to see pictures of a 2009 Friends of Liberia service trip to this West African country, please visit www.fol.org. My photo album is included).
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