Climate Change and Health

Last month, I attended the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg’s (WACH) “2016 Energy & Environment: Global Warming Alert” Conference held at Widener University School of Law. Keynote speaker His Excellency Majid al Suwaidi, Consul General the of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the panelist comprised of world renowned climate change experts discussed energy and environmental stewardship as well as climate change and its impact. Sadly, climate change is a public health concern that does not receive the proper attention it deserves. The truth is that global climate change exists, and people can be “empowered” to make some local changes for global impact.

Energy and Environmental experts report that climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health, including air quality, safe drinking water, food supply, migration (and extinction) of native species of animals and plants, frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions and secure shelter to name a few.

Energy and Environment expert panelists were: Distinguished Professor of Law, Director Widener Environmental Law and Sustainability Center (ELSC) John Dernbach; Scholar in Residence, Sustainability Ethics and Law at Widener’s ELSC Donald Brown; CEO GreenWorks Development Doug Neidich; NRDC Mark Szybist; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Greg Czamecki; and CEO, Cumberland Valley Economic Development Authority Jonathan Bowser. The keynote speaker was His Excellency Majid al Suwaidi, Consul General the of UAE. Moderators were WACH President/CEO Dr. Joyce Davis and WACH board member Dr. Oralia G. Dominic.


What is Global Climate?

Experts and NASA define global climate as the average climate over the entire planet. According to NASA, the reason scientists and people are concerned is that Earth’s global climate is changing. The planet is warming up fast—faster than at any time scientists know about from their studies of Earth’s entire history.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the last 130 years, the world has warmed by approximately 0.85oC. In fact, data show that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since year 1850.


Climate Change-What does A Warmer Temperature Mean?

The reason you and me are concerned is because a warmer temperature affects clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, animal and plant species and secure shelter.

Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and precipitation patterns are changing. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent. Weather-related natural disasters have tripled since the 1960.


How Does Climate Change Impact Health?

According to WHO experts, climate change impacts the social and environmental determinates of health.

Extreme higher temperatures (some examples):

Increases of deaths from heart and lung disease, especially among elderly people.

Contributes to poor air quality

Raises levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory disease

Raises pollen and other aeroallergen levels- These can trigger asthma


Extreme weather events, weather-related natural disasters like rainfall and flooding, for example:

Contribute to direct damage costs to health, estimated to reach up to $ 2-4 billion/year dollars by 2030

Difficult to rebuild and cope for areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries –  without assistance to prepare and respond

Contamination of freshwater supply, increases the risk of water-borne diseases, breeding of disease-carrying insects like mosquitos, drowning/physical injuries, damage to homes and vehicles, and structures result

Damage streets, bridges and buildings, which disrupts the supply of medical and health services


What can we do to slow down or stop the warming?

WHO reports that over the last 50 years, human activities – particularly the burning of fossil fuels – have released sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap additional heat in the lower atmosphere and affect the global climate.

Action for energy and environmental stewardship is reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health, particularly through reduced air pollution.


Below are the top 5 ways you can help with Global Climate Change:

  1. Start by planting trees; invest in and take care of your communities
  2. Being a responsible consumer

Buy a car with better gas mileage

Build greener homes and buildings

Invest in renewable energy

Join an advocacy and conservation group

Be informed and let the science lead the field not just opinions/skepticism

Contribute to (and execute) technological advances that help reduce emissions

  1. Learn about the Paris Agreement and various actions plans
  2. Educate our communities and policy-makers/elected officials about climate change
  3. Let your voice be heard with both your hard earned dollar and voting power!


Visit, and to learn more about Global Climate Change. Be informed about climate change. If you don’t know where to get information in your local area and need guidance, contact WACH at


OK, take good care of your planet, communities and health! Send me your health questions to ¡Hola, Oralia! Email:
Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy!  ¡Salud! ◆


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