by Jeni Miller, PhD, April 10, 2013

The Public Health Institute (PHI) is pleased to release a Request for Applications for Creating a Climate for Health Pilot Projects.

With funding from the Kresge Foundation, PHI will support pilot projects in three geographically diverse, urban communities in California to demonstrate approaches to incorporate climate change into current public health program practice and/or to enhance public health participation in on-going local climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience work. Each grantee will be awarded $20,000 for 12 months of work within the state of California. The purpose of the pilot projects is to develop models that can be held up, scaled up, and replicated that simultaneously address climate change and community health and health equity. Projects can be new or complement existing projects.

The deadline for applications is July 1, 2013.


by Jeni Miller, PhD, March 22, 2013

Of the many ways that climate change threatens human health, its impact on water is among the most fundamental. On World Water Day today, the United Nations (UN) hosted events focusing the on vital importance water, and has designated 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. The UN notes that, "rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten the resource while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population, now at over seven billion people, for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses.” 

Maude Barlow, national chair of citizen’s advocacy group the Council of Canadians calls water “the most pressing women’s issue” and raises many of the same concerns, globally and for Canada. The U.S. has also already begun to see the impact of climate change on water availability. In the American West, climate scientists broadly agree that the impacts of climate change on every aspect of water will be profound and are already occurring, as discussed in a 2011 web forum hosted on PHI's Dialogue4Health. Since then the U.S. has seen drought hit Midwest farms hard in 2012, and scientists have recently predicted worse drought in the same region for 2013. And a recent UN report identified water as a national security issue around the world, as conflicts arise when water is scarce, and as populations flee drought-stricken areas.

All of these highlight the vital importance of the United Nations’ call for water cooperation. Learn more about the High-Level Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly on Water Cooperation, held today in New York and the concurrent event in The Hague, and more about messages, events and the goals of the International Year of Water Cooperation.


by Jeni Miller, PhD, February 22, 2013

Since 2009, when the last attempt to enact comprehensive federal climate change legislation succumbed to a high-profile political failure, expensive and deadly natural disasters have refocused national attention on our changing climate. In his inaugural acceptance speech and his State of the Union address, President Obama devoted considerable attention to the issue. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently identified climate change as a “significant financial risk for the federal government.” House Democrats have established the Safe Climate Caucus. And on last Thursday, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Climate Protection Act of 2013, a bill that would take a major step by imposing a fee on the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Sustained and serious federal policy-making to addressing climate change is good news for health; and those interested in health must help shape and push for climate policy.

U.S. legislation to address climate change is long overdue. With a polarized Congress, some are calling the proposed Climate Protection Act dead on arrival. But others, perhaps bolstered by the 40,000-strong “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington over President’s Day weekend and by a 2012 survey that shows 77% of U.S. citizens favor action on climate change, see this as part of growing public and political momentum on the issue.

Public health is at the front lines in preparing for and responding to the effects of climate change in our everyday lives. The health impacts of climate change, direct and indirect, are evident, and will increase in frequency and severity as climate change proceeds. From heat waves to extreme weather events, from increases in vector-borne diseases to droughts and the resulting impact on food supply, climate change poses a range of ongoing threats to health. 

Health matters, as well, in the solutions we seek: Some strategies to address climate change offer significant health co-benefits for everyone. Decreasing auto dependence will reduce greenhouse gas emissions; it also supports walking and transit, thereby promoting greater physical activity, and improved transportation access and mobility for children, the elderly and others who may not drive. Urban green spaces such as parks reduce heat events while offering communities places to gather and giving children places to play. Strengthening community resilience with climate-ready infrastructure, emergency preparedness, and engaged, active neighborhoods readies communities to better withstand those climate events that do occur, and also improves their abilities to meet other challenges that impact community health and well-being.

From a health perspective, after decades of inaction, U.S. legislation that makes substantial progress toward curbing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions promises to be a major step forward. The Boxer-Sanders bill, if passed, could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2025, helping to put the U.S. on track to meet a target of 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.  Just as importantly, such U.S. action could help to unlock international climate change agreements, and thus motivate action by other countries including those that are significant current and emerging producers of greenhouse gases.

Climate and environmental groups rightly see this as a strong bill, for a number of reasons; and it does include important elements that address social determinants of health, such as job retraining to help displaced workers shift to the green energy sector, thereby protecting the economic well-being that supports health for workers and their families.

But the bill offers many opportunities to address health more directly. While it supports electric vehicles, it does nothing to shift to more transit and active transportation. Support for climate resilience focuses on infrastructure – vitally important – but ignores the readiness of those public agencies, such as local health departments, that are the first lines of defense against the health impacts of climate change. The funds raised by the bill would be used to weatherize homes to reduce energy usage--a laudable plan, but one that must be combined with steps to ensure indoor air quality if it is not to increase asthma and other respiratory issues. And the blanket rebate program – rebates from the carbon tax to all U.S. residents -- could be tailored to incentivize actions that further mitigate climate change and improve health.

The health and public health sectors have a key role to play to push for effective, substantive action on climate, as does everyone with an interest in his or her own health and that of his or her family.  We must participate in defining climate action, bringing a health lens to the details that can make the difference between the strongest co-benefits for our health, versus health as an afterthought. Moreover, we have a crucial role to play in building the momentum for action. Health advocates can help policy makers and the public understand the urgency of addressing climate change: climate is not just a vital environmental issue, not just an increasing financial risk, but a major health issue with stakes for everyone. Legislation and other government action that work to address climate change are vitally important health policy.

Given current realities in Congress, digging into the health details of the Boxer-Sanders climate change bill might seem moot; but the momentum it represents is not. What this bill together with other recent actions make clear is that climate change, an issue with major cross-cutting health implications, is on the political table. For any action to address the health implications of climate change effectively, those who care about health must step up to that table, and the administration, Congress and climate stakeholders must bring health considerations into the process from the outset. 


by Amanda Keifer, February 04, 2013

The Climate Change and Health News Roundup is your place for all the latest news on the health effects of climate change around the world.


United States: "Study shows climate change could affect onset, severity of flu seasons"

The American public can expect to add earlier and more severe flu seasons to the fallout from climate change, according to a research study published online Jan. 28 in PLOS Currents: Influenza.


China: "China's Rise: Envrionment and Climate Change"

China’s GDP has been growing at a rate of 10% a year for the past three decades. The country is rising quickly, no doubt. But is GDP the sole factor in measuring global power? The answer is definitely not!


United States: "Climate Change Impacting Health, Saftey and Economy of U.S. Coasts"

A new report authored by leading scientists and experts explains that the effects of climate change are going to continue threatening the health of coastal communities throughout the United States.


Global: "The Link Between Health and Sustainability" 

Will the next generation accept the concept of “healthy planet, healthy people” more easily, thanks to brand education campaigns?


Global: "Warmer Earth will have less rain"

Climate scientists said they found evidence to back predictions for a future with lower average rainfall, even though Earth's past warming episodes had led to more precipitation, not less.


Nigeria: "How Climate Change Impacts Your Health" 

Adeola Akinremi writes that climate change is already impacting on the health of Nigerians, but many are unaware and hardly trace their health challenges to climate change.


United States: "Will Climate Change Bring Worse Flu Seasons?"

Mild winters where few people catch the flu tend to be followed by serious flu outbreaks the next year, a new study finds, suggesting that global warming could mean harsher flu seasons ahead.


by Amanda Keifer, January 28, 2013

The Climate Change and Health News Roundup is your place for all the latest news on the health effects of climate change around the world.


Global: "Resolving to Live the Change for Benefits of Health and Planet"

At the top of the list of challenges we face in this new year must be the health of the world's growing population and the looming threat of climate change.

United States: "Effects of climate change will be felt more deeply in decades ahead, draft report says"

A federal advisory panel released a draft report Friday on how Americans can adapt to a changing climate, a more than 1,000 page tome that also sums up what has become increasingly apparent...

United States: "Kerry says global climate change is threat to U.S."

Calling himself “a passionate advocate” for energy policy, Sen. John Kerry said Thursday that climate change was among the top international threats facing the United States


United States - Michigan: "Major new report shows climate change already affecting public health, Great Lakes, farming"

The warming of the Midwest over the past few decades is already affecting public health, the Great Lakes, and farming, and fossil fuels are the main culprit, according to the new draft of the National Climate Assessment Report.


United States - Southwest: "Tribes Vulnerable to Climate Change Health Impacts"

A group of scientists from universities, research institutes and federal agencies say we can blame climate change for an increase in heat stroke, respiratory problems and other health issues across the Southwest in coming years. 


United States - Arizona: "Increased Health Woes Among Climate Change Impacts"

An increase in respiratory problems from raging wildfires and dust, more heat-related deaths in an aging population, and shifts in the range of diseases—these are some of the human health-related impacts the Southwest region will face as a result of climate change.


New Publication: "Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Need for Better Evidence"

 Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has contributed the least of any world region to the global accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions yet will be more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than any other. 


by Amanda Keifer, January 22, 2013

The Climate Change and Health News Roundup is your place for all the latest news on the health effects of climate change around the world.

Global: "Blog: An Alarm in the Offing on Climate Change"

The natural conservatism of science has often led climatologists to be cautious in their pronouncements about global warming. 


Global: "2012: The Year of Extreme Weather" 

The weather reports are in. 2012 was the hottest and the most extreme year on record in many places.

United States: "Southwest Faces Looming Threats From Climate Change"

The American Southwest, which is already the hottest and driest region of the nation, is likely to become even hotter and drier in the next few decades thanks in part to the ongoing effects of human-generated greenhouse gases. 

United States: "The Extreme Weather Threat That's All Around Us"

This is not a good time to be a climate change denier. After a record-breaking year of dangerous weather in 2012—following a destructive year in 2011—scientific reports are rolling out this month showing extreme weather in the U.S. is on the rise...

Global: "Human Health to Feel Impact of Warmer Future"

What effect will climate change have on health in the Pacific? This is the third of a five-part series in which environment reporter Sarah Clarke sets out to provide answers.

Australia: "Climate Change Affecting Pacific Health"

Given the long term predictions that we will face more hotter days and extreme weather, medical authorities say the implications for human health as a result of climate change are serious.


Global: "Where There's Smog, There's Climate Change" 

In addition to causing smoggy skies and chronic coughs, soot – or black carbon – turns out to be the number two contributor to global warming.

The draft of the third National Climate Assessment warns that with the current rate of global carbon emissions, these impacts will intensify in the coming decades.