The Environment & Global Health: An Interview with UN IPCC Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Patz
Today, world-renowned scholar and researcher on the environmental and health effects of climate change, Dr. Jonathan Patz, will share with us the impact of global warming on humanity, as well as how to deal with the coming crisis.
Dr. Patz holds numerous academic posts and is involved in several U.S. and international organizations.
As Professor of Environmental Studies and Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Patz directs a university-wide initiative on global environmental health.
He is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the JohnsHopkinsBloombergSchoolof Public Health and an affiliate scientist at the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research(NCAR).
Dr. Patz's non-academic activities include co-chairing the Health Expert Panel of the US National Assessment on Climate Variability and Change, and being a lead author of climate change reports for the United Nations/
World Bank Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC), and World Health Organization (WHO).
He has written over 75 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the environmental and health effects of global warming.
From 1996 to 2000, Dr. Patz was principal researcher for the largest US multi-institutional study on climate change health risks.
He has briefed the US Congress, the White House and federal-agency leaders
on environmental health matters.
His areas of research include the effects of climate change on air pollution,
heat waves and the relationship between deforestation and resurgent diseases in the Amazon.
In 2007, Dr. Patz became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate along with his fellow IPCC
report authors and former US Vice President Al Gore for their work
on climate change.
Dr. Patz shares his research and knowledge in an interview with Supreme Master Television
on the global implications on human health as a result of the changing climate.
Many people ask, "Is global warming real?"
and I'm not a climatologist
but being on the IPCC, I've worked actually for about 15 years
with climatologists and we know that climate
is always changing.
As the famous naturalist John Muir said,
"As everythingis interconnected, and as we pull on one thing,
we find it connected to everything in the universe."
And in the case ofclimate change and health effects,
it's similar to that.
For thousands of years before the Industrial Age,
the greenhouse gas concentration in Earth's atmosphere
maintained a relatively stable level.
However, our biosphere's fragile balance is being compromised by human's
carbon and methane intensive activities.
Climatologists tell us that this is an urgent problem,
that if we don't really de-carbonize our energy systems in the next ten years,
the rate of warming and the level of temperature
that we are going to reach could be quite significant.
The range that they are talking about in the next 90 years is somewhere between
1.5 and 6 degrees centigrade.
As a global average, that's a huge amount.
The Ice Ages, we were only two degrees colder, two degrees centigrade
colder than we are today.
So now we are talking about warming rapidly within the next century;
1.5 to 6 degrees
centigrade as a global average increase is unprecedented.
Regarding the possible consequences of such rapid global warming,
the United Nations 2007
IPCC report provides various projections. Dr. Patz, however,
believes the real situation could be much more serious than the estimates
present in the report.
What the climatologists are saying in the IPCC report is that the Arctic
is melting rapidly and of course that endangers the polar bear.
Of course, the polar bear in my view, the polar bear is, that's
an important species to recognize that species is now threatened.
But now from my point of view, they are not the only species that should be worried.
Our own species I think we should be worried.
The climatologists conducting the IPCC, and this is across
hundreds of climatologists from really the best climate institutes
around the world, it's a consensus document.
And consensus, by that I mean a large majority of these climatologists
have agreed to the conclusions of the IPCC, and then this goes
through multiple rounds of peer review and governmental review.
And by that way, it's called a consensus document.
To get to a consensus and to get to the IPCC findings, it's a
very conservative report.
So for example, the sea-level rise projected of about half a meter
of sea level rise in the next hundred years is only looking at
thermal expansion of the oceans.
As the oceans warm salt water expands, so that amount of warming,
that amount of sea level rise is mostly just from thermal expansion.
Not in the number is the potential for more sudden and more disastrous types
of sea level rise.
With sea level rising and the emergence of more weather extremes,
it can be expected that many people's livelihoods will face serious threats.
There are different places around the world that will experience
different threats, different vulnerabilities.
So for example, with sea level rise, low-lying deltas
like Bangladesh, most of the country of Bangladesh is
on this low-lying delta, much of that country will be underwater.
Deltas along China, the China coast, are at high risk of being flooded.
In the western United States, one of the biggest threats there
will be diminishing snow pack and availability of water.
And many parts of mid-continental regions will suffer from droughts.
According to scientific studies, the issue of global warming
has become extremely pressing for humankind.
Climatologists around the world are urging for immediate actions
to curb global warming.
We need to really quickly reduce our energy demands,
so it sends a signal to the rest of the world
that if we can do it and we take the leadership,
that they can do it as well.
We're at the turning point where the awareness is very high
about the risk of global warming and we need to act on that.
And we need to act at the personal level, the local level,
the city level, and the national level and the international level.