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Climate and public health: Leopoldina Dialogue in Potsdam

12/05/2017 - Climate change related risks for public health are one of the most important challenges of today. However, the science communities on both sides of the fence have so far not sufficiently interacted to reflect the critical nexus of climate change and health. Taking the first mover advantage, a workshop of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now brought together renowned scientists from climate sciences, health and medicine, psychology, environmental sciences, social sciences and economics. They will develop a publication offering stakeholder and decision-makers orientation on public health and climate policy.
Climate and public health: Leopoldina Dialogue in Potsdam

Rainer Sauerborn from University Heidelberg, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber from PIK and Wolfgang Holzgreve from University Hospital Bonn, at the Leopoldina Workshop (ltr). Photo: PIK

Climate change is already being felt today in unusual heat waves or hurricanes. These again have effects in many regions on nutritional quality of agricultural yields, Malaria hazards, exceeding human thermoregulatory capacity, or heat-related excess mortality, explained Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of PIK. In the face of increasing climate change, “failing public health structures can affect many people", he said. Impacts on labor productivity and long-term economic growth were discussed by PIK’s chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer.

“Diseases, disabilities and deaths are key impacts of climate change”, said Rainer Sauerborn, Head of the Institute of Public Health at Heidelberg University. Yet inversely, “health co-benefits can be a driving force for climate policy and individual behavior", he argued. “Health can help moving climate policy and is key to address climate change”. Other speakers were, amongst others, Christian Witt, Director of Outpatient Pneumology of the Medical Department at Charité, Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Ashish Jha from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Jochem Marotzke, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.

Earlier this year, PIK had organized the Impacts World Conference "Counting the true costs of climate change” bringing together 500 researchers from 67 countries in Potsdam. This conference already raised the issue of climate threats to human health. In 2018, PIK will appoint an expert for the climate and health nexus as Co-Chair of its research domain Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities.


Weblink to German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina: https://www.leopoldina.org/en/leopoldina-home/

Weblink to Impacts World Conference 2017: https://www.impactsworld2017.org/

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