Climate Warming will not Decrease Winter Mortality

by Allison Hu

It has been commonly assumed by policymakers and health professionals that harmful health impacts of anthropogenic climate change will be partially offset by a decline in excess winter deaths (EWDs) in temperature countries as winters warm. However, over the past few decades, the UK and other temperate countries have also simultaneously experienced better housing, improved health care, higher incomes and greater awareness of the risks of cold. Therefore, it is possible that the link between winter temperatures and EWDs is not as direct. Continue reading

Global Diets Link Environmental Sustainability and Human Health

by Allison Hu

Due to rising incomes and urbanization, traditional diets are being replaced by diets that are higher in refined sugars, refined fats, oils, and meats. By 2050, if these dietary trends are unchecked, they can become a major contributor to an estimated 80% increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and global land clearing, which can result in species extinction (Tilman et al. 2014). Additionally, these dietary shifts are greatly increasing the incidence of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancies. Because the global dietary transition directly links and negatively affects human and environmental health, it is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. If alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits are widely adopted, there is potential to reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions, and even help prevent such diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases. Therefore, the implementation of dietary solutions to the tightly linked diet-environment-health trilemma, although a global challenge, is an important and valuable opportunity to improve the environment and human health. Impactful solutions will not be easily achieved and will require analyses of the quantitative linkages between diets, the environment, and human health. Tilman et al. focus their study on these solutions, along with the efforts of nutritionists, agriculturists, public health professionals, educators, policy makers, and food industries. Continue reading

Projected Delays in Reducing Waterborne and Water-Related Infectious Diseases in China Under Climate Change

by Allison Hu

In 2010, infectious disease due to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WSH) were estimated to be responsible for 337,000 deaths globally and the loss of over 21 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) (Hodges et al. 2014). These WSH-attributable diseases include soil-transmitted helminth infections, schistosomiasis, diarrhoeal diseases, and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis. In China, the WSH-attributable disease burden is concentrated in low-income areas and in young children. Cases not leading to morbidity and mortality, these diseases can causes malnutrition, stunting, impaired school performance, immunodeficiency, and impaired cognitive functioning which can hinder economic growth and development at a population level (Hodges et al.). Furthermore, there are studies associating certain diseases with key environmental variables that are responsive to changes in climate, such as temperature, precipitation, and relative humidity. Temperatures changes can influence the replication rate and survival of pathogens and vectors in the environment and impact transmission. Heavy precipitation can overwhelm existing water and sanitation systems, therefore mobilizing pathogens, while drought conditions can increase pathogen exposure by limiting the water available for hygiene and forcing populations to resort to the use of contaminated water supplies. Continue reading

Extreme Temperatures Increase the Incidence of Tuberculosis in Japan

by Allison Hu

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major global public health problem – it affects millions of people annually and ranks as the second leading cause of death from an infectious disease worldwide (World Health Organization (WHO) 2013) (Onozuka et al. 2014). The WHO estimated that there were 8.6 million new TB cases and 1.3 million TB deaths in 2012. The worldwide TB incidence rates peaked in 2004 and have decreased at a rate of less than 1 % per year since then. Thus, the overall worldwide burden continues to rise as a result of the rapid growth of the world population. TB is a leading cause of death in people in the most economically productive age groups. Furthermore, with growing concerns about global climate change, many studies have focused on associations between weather variability and the fluctuations of infectious diseases and have suggested that weather factors play an important role in their incidence, indicating the possibility of multiple functional pathways. Continue reading

Just Released! “Energy, Biology, Climate Change”

FrontCover6x9 white border 72dpi EBCC2015

Our newest book, published on May 6, 2015 and available at Amazon.com for $19.95.

The focus of this book is the interactions between energy, ecology, and climate change, as well as a few of the responses of humanity to these interactions. It is not a textbook, but a series of chapters discussing subtopics in which the authors were interested and wished to write about. The basic material is cutting-edge science; technical journal articles published within the last year, selected for their relevance and interest. Each author selected eight or so technical papers representing his or her view of the most interesting current research in the field, and wrote summaries of them in a journalistic style that is free of scientific jargon and understandable by lay readers. This is the sort of science writing that you might encounter in the New York Times, but concentrated in a way intended to give as broad an overview of the chapter topics as possible. None of this research will appear in textbooks for a few years, so there are not many ways that readers without access to a university library can get access to this information.

This book is intended be browsed—choose a chapter topic you like and read the individual sections in any order; each is intended to be largely stand-alone. Reading all of them will give you considerable insight into what climate scientists concerned with energy, ecology, and human effects are up to, and the challenges they face in understanding one of the most disruptive—if not very rapid—event in human history; anthropogenic climate change. The Table of Contents follows: Continue reading

Drought Impacts on Children’s Respiratory Health in the Brazilian Amazon

by Allison Hu

Drought conditions in Amazonia are associated with increased fire incidence, enhancing aerosol emissions with degradation in air quality. On average, the Brazilian Amazon experiences extreme flood or drought once every ten years (Smith et al. 2014). However, in 2005 and 2010, only a five-year period, two mega droughts have occurred in the Amazon. Although the 2005 drought was the first in 100 years, the second drought occurred only five years later in 2010. Environmental impacts of drought include tree mortality from water deficits and social impacts include lack of food, lack of medical supplies, isolation of communities, and even health problems. Health issues arise because during droughts, wind erosion in deforested areas causes soil particles and microbes to be blow into the air, creating and exacerbating respiratory problems and triggering allergies. Furthermore, droughts have a positive correlation with fire incidences – in Amazonia, droughts can lead to over 30% increase in fire occurrence. This too leads to more hazardous health issues as smoke from fires tends to carry fine Particulate Matter particles (PM2.5), that when inhaled, may reach deep into the lungs, causing irritation of the throat, lungs, and eyes. The primary location for fires within the Amazon is centered around the southern and eastern periphery where 85% of fires occur, emitting as much as 300-600 mg/m3 of PM10 per 24 hours and up to 400 mg/ m3 of PM2.5 per 24 hours during the dry season (Smith et al.). Measurements carried out in southern Amazonia demonstrated that exposure to PM2.5 have positive associations with children’s respiratory health. This increase of 10 mg/m3 PM2.5 has shown simultaneous correlation with a 5.6% and 2.9% increase in outpatients in Rio Branco, Acre State, and Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso State, respectively. Continue reading

Effect of Non-Stationary Climate on Infectious Gastroenteritis Transmission in Japan

by Allison Hu

Infectious gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the stomach flu, is a medical condition from inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves both the stomach and the small intestine, causing a combination of diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping. This common disease contributes significantly to the 1 billion episodes of diarrhea and 3 million deaths in children under 5 years of age per year, and is the fifth-leading cause of death worldwide (Onozuka et al. 2014). The transmission of infectious gastroenteritis is rather complex, involving both host and environmental factors. Continue reading