Photo: Dr. Paul Auerbach (left, sunglasses) and Dr. Jay Lemery (right)
While pundits and skeptics may continue to debate the cause of global climate change, the effects are plain to see.
Wildfires, drought, and extreme weather are all increasing in frequency and intensity.
And, according to two medical professors, these changes are having profound, negative effects on our health.
In their new book, “Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health,” Stanford professor Dr. Paul Auerbach and Dr. Jay Lemery of the University of Colorado explore the many ways climate change, and in particular global warming, is impacting human health.
The authors make the point early that they aren’t climate scientists, but they base their analysis and observations on current climate models, which point to continued increases in global temperatures.
“If current predictions about global warming are true, then there will be devastating human health effects,” Auerbach explains.
“Even if we cannot determine the precise impact ratio of human-made to natural causes of environmental degradation and global warming, I cannot see any logical reason to not do everything possible to promote environmental health and preservation. Like other situations we have had to overcome, like tobacco use, the opposition comes from economic interests and political maneuvering.”
Auerbach and Lemery detail a number of scenarios and situations where climate change is directly impacting human health.
These include heat waves, disease outbreaks, air degradation, and water security.
In this excerpt from the book, the authors discuss how climate change may affect food availability and nutrient content, and further complicate existing food shortages.
Food SecurityFood, water, and shelter form the essential triad for human safety and security. It doesn’t take imagination to understand that when any of these come into the crosshairs of climate effects, people are the targets. The path from farm to table is long and vulnerable. As the planet warms and ecosystems change due to extreme weather, many environmental perturbations might weaken a link in the food chain: plant health and agriculture, animal reproduction and growth, fisheries and aquaculture, food trade and distribution, and consumer behavior. There is much to discuss and ponder in this category of security.
Worsening food security can occur in many ways other than declining availability. For example, it can be caused by lowered nutrient content, waxing and waning agricultural supplies, and diminished food use. Each of these factors directly and indirectly affects human health. The direct effect will be worsening undernutrition, which already exists as an enormous burden across the planet. Indirect effects include increased environmental exposures to toxins and pollutants through extreme weather events that disperse these substances, and through weakening of our health-sustaining ecosystem services.
By weighing in from a physician’s perspective, Auerbach and Lemery hope to clarify the science, dispel myths, and help people understand the threats of climate change to human health.
“Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health” is currently available for sale on .