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Spring 2017 Climate Change & Health

UC San Diego’s Annual Horizons of Global Health Research Symposium is a unique opportunity for Global Health students to present their research about the diversity of global health work around the world. The conference features an undergraduate research poster session and a keynote speaker. This event celebrates the end of the academic year and the success of our graduates.

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On April 19th, 2017 the UC San Diego Global Health ProgramStudents for Global Health and the Global Forum  hosted yet another successful Quarterly Conversations in Global Health event on the topic of Climate Change and Health–Global & Local Perspectives.

Quarterly Conversations provides a forum for the Global Health community to come together to discuss relevant issues in the field from an interdisciplinary perspective and increase community interaction at UC San Diego.

We would like to give a special thank you to the event co-sponsors, Global Health InstituteOffice of SustainabilityDivision of Social Sciences and Associated Students for providing support and sponsoring this fantastic event.

The event featured three panelists who shed light on various aspects of how climate change impacts health and environments worldwide:

Dr. Gordon McCord

Dr. Gordon McCord (Assistant Professor of Economics at the School of Global Policy and Strategy) has extensive background in economics and sustainable development and works at the intersection of development economics, public health and the environment. Dr. McCord addressed how climate change can directly impact infectious diseases like malaria and hookworm.  He spoke about how economists address climate change, proposing the solution that our society may want to use taxes (i.e. carbon tax) to reduce the long term damage that we could ensue.  Dr. McCord provided a detailed example of using the basic reproduction of malaria, presenting an equation that takes several variables into account (ambient temperature, rainfall, and other climate effects), to ultimately show that we can predict how much more damage infectious disease will cause as a result of climate change.

Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Our second speaker, Dr. Ramanathan who is a Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate and atmospheric scientist, shared his experience of being a part of a historic gathering of scientists, economists and philosophers who advised the Vatican, including Pope Francis, on moral issues that link climate change with poverty and food security. From this partnership with Pope Francis, Dr. Ramanathan expects the Pope will use his power to move the world towards greater sustainability.

Dr. Ramanathan is also highly regarded for his work with women in rural India to reduce the impact of climate change through clean cook-stove use. He shared that we need to act on this issue, an issue which causes great human suffering.  Dr. Ramanathan highlighted his respect for Janet Napolitano and her pledge to make the UC campuses carbon neutral.  He shared his enjoyment of working directly with students in an effort to mobilize them at all the UCs and California State Universities.

Dr. Isabel Rivera-Collazo

Our third speaker, Dr. Isabel Rivera-Collazo (Assistant Professor on Biological, Ecological and Human Adaptations to Climate Change at the Department of Anthropology and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography) is an environmental archaeologist specializing in geoarchaeology, archaeomalacology, coastal and marine processes, maritime culture and climate change.

Dr. Collazo brings a wealth of knowledge as a result of her work with climate health, cultural heritage, and community activism in Puerto Rico.  She asked difficult questions like, “Why don’t people feel compelled to act when it will affect all of us at a global level?” and “What is the message we’re trying to deliver?”  She explained that most people don’t feel very connected or personally affected by climate change and therefore we need to engage with communities more deeply and tap into their cultural heritage.

Dr. Collazo stated, “we must make them see that their basic services are under threat, how their daily life will be affected, and that their livelihood is also going to be affected by climate change.”  She shared that Archeologists can help with current research in climate change because they are well-versed in scientific data and cultures of various societies/regions.  Dr. Collazo also addressed government policy, citizen science and community activism. She feels we need to tap into people’s connection to communities and cultural sites that are under threat to get them to start paying attention.

To close, Dr. Jenkins led a Question & Answer session where a number of topics were brought to our attention and provided our experts with an opportunity to comment on student and faculty concerns regarding climate change.

Dr. Ramanathan shared the simple area in which we all can contribute; he stated,  “We need students to talk to our neighbors and to reach out to people across the aisle and change their minds about climate change.”  Dr. Janis Jenkins further commented that, “We need to frame it as an issue of caring for both people across the world and for places that matter to us.”  Last, Dr. McCord added that “It is important to recognize our success so far because things would be worse in a counterfactual world where nothing was done and the planet was 5 degrees warmer.”

Thank you to all of our wonderful speakers for sharing their knowledge with us and to all of our students, staff, faculty and community members who attended the event. We look forward to our next Quarterly Conversation which will take place in Fall Quarter of 2017.

Please join us at our largest and most exciting Global Health event, The Horizons of Global Health Research Symposium and Field Experience Expo which will take place on Tuesday, May 9th, at 12pm in the Great Hall.  RSVP Here.

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