Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Global Warming and Human Health

Jul 27, 2015 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Eldorado Hotel
309 W San Francisco Street, Santa Fe
Robert Davis, University of Virginia
Shermonta Grant
(202) 777-7329

Event Description

The main reason we are concerned about human-induced climate change is that climate shifts might impact the health of Earth’s populace.

These impacts can be direct, such as the influence of stronger heat waves or storms, or indirect, like changes in the food supply or the cost and availability of energy. We are also concerned about whether a changing climate might significantly alter current weather patterns in such a way that diseases will spread out of regions where they are currently endemic into areas where they are currently of little concern.

Are heat waves becoming stronger and more intense? Is heat resulting in more premature deaths? Is there evidence that tropical diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are spreading poleward into the middle latitudes? Is declining air quality a symptom of climate change?

In this lecture that will be geared toward a non-specialized, public audience, I will summarize the current scientific understanding of human health implications of climate change. After providing context about the current observations of climate change, I will focus on a few key areas related to human health as examples. I will examine the relationships between heat waves and human mortality in the United States as well as the seasonality of mortality, and address the question of whether excess summer deaths might be compensated by fewer deaths in the winter. I will also discuss malaria, a disease transmitted by insects that is common in the tropics, and will summarize recent findings on whether malaria is spreading poleward and potential linkages between malaria and global warming. This topic is of particular interest to the related Gordon Conference on whether the width of Earth’s tropical belt is changing. Finally, I will touch on trends in air quality and human health to try to discern the impact of climate change on the issue.