2017: Climate Change and Population Health

Led by LuAnne Thompson (UW Oceanography/PCC Director) and Cecilia Bitz (UW Atmospheric Sciences/PCC Director-Elect).

The topic of Population Health and Climate Change was inspired by the linkages forged through the Global Health and Environmental Fellows Program and by the UW Population Health Initiative. I, along with my co-organizer Cecilia, wanted to bring a variety of perspectives to how climate change interacts with human health broadly both now and into the future. The curiosity and humbleness that was present at this year’s Summer Institute typifies this interdisciplinary culture that we all experience every day on the UW campus both inside and outside of the PCC and the College of the Environment.

M Bertram
2017 PCC Summer Institute Participants

This year’s speakers did an amazing job of explaining not only their own research to a broad audience, but also in giving perspectives on what it means to engage in climate research. With little advance planning, the talks seamlessly linked those perspectives together. As a first example, we had a series of speakers who spoke about different aspects of climate driven extreme events. Extreme climate events are how most people will experience the detrimental impacts of climate change, whether it be by a hurricane that is made just that much stronger owing to a warmer ocean, storm surge that is just that much higher owing to sea level rise, or longer and more severe heat waves.

We had a series of talks that gave differing yet complimentary perspectives on understanding both the science and human impacts of extreme events. We learned from an atmospheric scientist (Bill Boos, UC Berkeley) about the causes of floods in the Indian subcontinent, how that might change in future but with an eye towards challenges that extreme rainfall brings to vulnerable populations; Fasail Hossain (UW CEE) gave an engineers’ perspective on the challenges in managing water in the same region. We also heard from Andrew Rhines (UW Atmospheric Sciences) about the science of climate related extreme events, while Beth Fussell (Brown University) talked about hurricanes, and how the impacts are driven by the differing vulnerability of populations. We also were given differing perspectives on human health, with an excellent overview by Kris Ebi (UW, Center Global Health and the Environment) of how climate change has in the past and will in the future effect human health from a disease perspective. Jeremy Hess (UW, Center Global Health and the Environment) then gave perspectives on heat extremes, and finally we heard from Jeff Reid (UW, IHME) who introduced us to the Global Burden of Disease and discussed how accounting for how people die can help us to determine the best way to ensure a healthy future for all people on the planet. Finally, we had two different perspectives on climate change and food: a quantitative approach given by Claudia Tebaldi where she discussed using data and models to create projections of the impact of climate change on staple crops over wide regions, and a thought provoking discussion by Eddie Allison of the importance of small scale fisheries to nutrition in many places, and how when we think about the impact of climate change it is important to think about the fisheries management context. Each of the speakers welcomed questions and framed their talks to be accessible to the very interdisciplinary audience. The questions ranged from basic to the very technical leading to very thoughtful discussions. I think that we were all sorry to head back to Seattle on Friday.

LuAnne Thompson, co-convener of the 2017 PCC Summer Institute [also read “Things I learned from leading the PCC”]



The annual University of Washington Program on Climate Change Summer Institute took place September 13-15, 2017, in Friday Harbor, WA.  The topic was “Population Health and Climate Change” and brought together climate scientists with social and health sciences to talk about the observed and projected impacts of climate change to population health.  The challenges that climate change brings to food and water security, human health, and population disruption were discussed.

Two paper discussions were scheduled, and were “strongly recommended” for participating students and postdocs.

Thursday August 31, 1:30-3 in OCN 425, Led by LuAnne Thompson, PCC Director and Oceanography faculty

Carleton, T.A. and Hsiang S.M (2016) Social and economic impacts of climate, Science Sep 9; 353
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9837

Tuesday September 5, 1:30-3 in OCN 425, Led by Cecilia Bitz, PCC Director-Elect and Atmospheric Sciences faculty. Two readings are listed below. If the material is new to you, spend more time on the first paper. If you are already familiar with this topic, skim the IPCC document quickly and spend more time on the second paper. Both will be discussed.

IPCC, 2012: Summary for Policymakers. In: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1-19.

Meehl, G.A., C. Tebaldi, and D. Adams-Smith, US daily temperature records past, present, and future, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., vol. 113, pp. 13977-13982, doi:10.1073/pnas.1606117113. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/49/13977.full.pdf

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