Many lessons for addressing the effects of climate change were shared throughout the course of the Climate & Health Meeting, held Feb. 16 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, and one panel discussed ways we can find solutions from a less obvious source: low- and middle-income countries.
As Kristie Ebi, professor in the Departments of Global Health and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, pointed out, “there’s a lot we can learn in the U.S. from what’s being done in other countries around the globe.”
During the panel “Protecting public health from climate-related threats: Lessons from across the globe,” moderated by Ebi, panelists shared strategies already being used around the world to help those most affected by climate change.
Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, who leads the climate change and health team within the World Health Organization’ Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health told conference attendees that they were “not alone” in this fight and that WHO is committed to working with global partners to address climate change. “The global community recognizes climate change as a problem,” said Campbell-Lendrum, who joined the meeting all the way from Geneva, Switzerland, via Skype.
In Europe, climate change is the fifth biggest driver of emerging infectious disease, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The ECDC is using this data to look “upstream” and identify the precursors to infectious disease before they develop. “We can’t sit back and just watch what’s going on,” said Jan Semenza, head of the Scientific Assessment Section at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Adaptation is also key for low- and middle-income countries to have the ability to overcome the effects of climate change. “The most vulnerable have the least capacity to adapt, but must be able to do it the most,” said Rainer Sauerborn, former director of the Heidelberg Institute of Public Health in Germany. “We must help them.”
The panelists stressed that climate change doesn’t discriminate — everyone, no matter their nationality or socioeconomic level, feels its effects. “Not caring about them is not caring about us, and not caring about our children,” Ebi said, referring to the world’s vulnerable populations. “It’s in our best interest to protect our health and the health of others. We should care about what we have caused in other countries.
“There will be many opportunities in the next couple of decades to increase the resilience of communities and of nations; by using environmental information, by paying better attention to improving our health systems, and, in the longer term, the importance of mitigation.”