Digital Literature Table: Climate Change and Human Health (updated 2021)

**this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of resources. Please visit nam.edu and nationalacademies.org for additional information.

 

 

Collections and Resource Lists

Climate at the National Academies

From more extreme weather to rising seas, the climate is changing in ways that pose increasing risks to people and ecosystems. Building on decades of work, the National Academies continue to provide objective advice from top experts to help the nation better understand, prepare for, and limit future climate change

Nobel Prize Summit 2021: Our Planet, Our Future

Framed around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Summit in April 2021 gathered a powerful network of Nobel Laureates, together with world-leading scientists, business leaders, writers, politicians, artists, and young people. The purpose is to continue building trust in scientific reasoning while exploring transformative models for people and the planet on some of the most pressing existential challenges faced by humanity on Earth: (1) climate change and biodiversity loss, (2) rising inequality, and (3) rapid societal transformation enabled by emerging and converging technologies.

 

Activities and Programs

NAM Grand Challenge on Human Health and Climate Change

Multi-year global initiative to improve and protect human health, well-being, and equity by working to transform systems that both contribute to and are impacted by climate change

NAM Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector

Public-private partnership of leaders from across the health system committed to addressing the sector’s environmental impact while strengthening its sustainability and resilience

Environmental Health Matters Initiative

Initiative that convenes government, industry, and academic leaders to share ideas and form connections that inspire the development of solutions to our most pressing environmental health challenges

Climate Communications Initiative

Initiative to better leverage and unlock the storehouse of climate-related work from across the National Academies in order to more effectively meet and anticipate the needs of decision makers at all levels of society

 

Publications

Toward Understanding the Interplay of Environmental Stressors, Infectious Diseases, and Human Health: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief

Infectious diseases are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide. Scientists have long known that the environment plays a defining role in the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. However, the relationships among human exposures to environmental pollution; rapid environmental change; and the emergence, spread, and persistence of infectious diseases are not yet well understood. Emerging findings suggest that exposure to environmental pollutants such as airborne particulate matter, industrial chemicals, and heavy metals may alter the immune system, increasing human susceptibility to infection. New research findings show that the microbiome of humans and ecosystems also play important roles in infection. Nonetheless, the fields of environmental health and infectious diseases largely operate distinctly from one another even though research on the interplay between these fields could inform new health practices, public health research, and public health policy.

Protecting the Health and Well-Being of Communities in a Changing Climate

On March 13, 2017, the Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine and the Roundtable on Population Health Improvement jointly convened a 1-day public workshop in Washington, DC, to explore potential strategies for public health, environmental health, health care, and related stakeholders to help communities and regions to address and mitigate the health effects of climate change. Participants discussed the perspectives of civic, government, business, and health-sector leaders, and existing research, best practices, and examples that inform stakeholders and practitioners on approaches to support mitigation of and adaptation to climate change and its effects on population health. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.

Modeling the Health Risks of Climate Change

Climate change poses risks to human health and well-being through shifting weather patterns, increases in frequency and intensity of heat waves and other extreme weather events, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and other environmental effects. Those risks occur against a backdrop of changing socioeconomic conditions, medical technology, population demographics, environmental conditions, and other factors that are important in determining health. Models of health risks that reflect how health determinants and climate changes vary in time and space are needed so that we can inform adaptation efforts and reduce or prevent adverse health effects. Robust health risk models could also help to inform national and international discussions about climate policies and the economic consequences of action and inaction.

Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities After Disasters

In the devastation that follows a major disaster, there is a need for multiple sectors to unite and devote new resources to support the rebuilding of infrastructure, the provision of health and social services, the restoration of care delivery systems, and other critical recovery needs. In some cases, billions of dollars from public, private and charitable sources are invested to help communities recover. National rhetoric often characterizes these efforts as a “return to normal.” But for many American communities, pre-disaster conditions are far from optimal. Large segments of the U.S. population suffer from preventable health problems, experience inequitable access to services, and rely on overburdened health systems. A return to pre-event conditions in such cases may be short-sighted given the high costs – both economic and social – of poor health. Instead, it is important to understand that the disaster recovery process offers a series of unique and valuable opportunities to improve on the status quo. Capitalizing on these opportunities can advance the long-term health, resilience, and sustainability of communities – thereby better preparing them for future challenges.

The Nexus of Biofuels, Climate Change, and Human Health

Liquid fuels are a major part of modern life. They supply energy for ground, water, and air transportation as well as power for industrial and farming machinery. But fossil fuels – the dominant liquid fuel in use for well over a century – have many disadvantages. The use of fossil fuels has obvious health downsides, such as emissions of pollutants that are directly harmful to health. The burning of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, itself a long-term threat to human health. There have also been health concerns related to insecurity of liquid fuel supplies and the potential of international conflicts being caused by fuel scarcity. Furthermore, there are concerns that the world’s large but still limited supply of fossil fuels could be strained by the increasing demand that results from societies around the world achieving greater prosperity. In the face of these concerns, new policies have been created that encourage the development of renewable sources of energy in general and biofuels in particular.

Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health

The indoor environment affects occupants’ health and comfort. Poor environmental conditions and indoor contaminants are estimated to cost the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars a year in exacerbation of illnesses like asthma, allergic symptoms, and subsequent lost productivity. Climate change has the potential to affect the indoor environment because conditions inside buildings are influenced by conditions outside them.

 

Events (series)

Climate Conversations: Pathways to Action

These events feature conversations between experts, stakeholders, and communicators from across science, engineering, and medicine. The webinars build on – but aren’t limited to – recent Academies reports, and focus on critical and timely topics to inform the rapidly changing science-to-action landscape. Potential future topics include: extreme events, international collaboration, and health and climate.

Communities, Climate Change, and Health Equity – A Workshop Series

As climate change worsens air pollution, expands urban heat islands, and intensifies extreme weather events, communities least able to respond often bear the largest health burden. Targeted investments that prioritize disproportionately impacted communities are needed to mitigate and adapt to the health effects of climate change. This workshop series explores the current state of knowledge about climate-related health disparities. Participants explore specific actions to take when working with communities to improve climate-related health outcomes and invest in health equity.


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