Climate Change and Health

 
Climate Change and Health
Picture: Dr. Thalia Sparling

Motivation

Climate change, alongside biodiversity loss and other planetary crises, is arguably “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century" (Lancet 2009) because it destroys our living conditions on the planet – through increased storms and floods, heat and drought, harvest failures and famines, infections, conflicts and migration. It hits the poorest particularly hard, thus enhancing existing inequality. Ultimately, it threatens the survival of our civilization.

Simultaneously, "tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century" (Lancet 2015), because what we need to do for climate stabilization is largely similar to what we should be doing for health. Namely, making cities more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, shutting down coal-fired power plants, refining agroecological practices for growing food, producing/eating less meat and more vegetables, consuming fewer products and having more time for friends and family. After all, many diseases are caused by air pollution, lack of exercise, unhealthy diets, and stress. A win-win situation!

Planetary Health builds on Public Health and Global Health and goes beyond. While taking social, economic and political determinants of health as well as global interdependence into account, Planetary Health explicitly considers the natural systems of the planet, on which human wellbeing and existence ultimately depend. The long-term goal is: healthy people on a healthy planet.

Our newly established research group will link climate research at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and human health research at Charité, guided by the transdisciplinary concept of Planetary Health and with a focus on nutrition. Our research aims to contribute to a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on nutrition and health as well as to evaluate concrete solutions towards healthy food systems that achieve responsible planetary stewardship of the global commons.

Key questions

  • What strategies and interventions will enable us to improve nutrition and health outcomes while staying within planetary boundaries?
  • How can we leverage agriculture to improve nutrition and health and increase climate resilience?
  • What are the impacts of agricultural change on diets and health?
  • What are the long-term consequences of nutritional and other impacts in utero on the health of the offspring (fetal programming)?

Working Group Leader

Amanda Wendt

email:

Team