Environmental Health & Climate Change
- Bad things happen. Many of us know from personal experience that trees fall on houses, basements flood in heavy rains, and cars crash. The daily news reminds us that toxic impoundment ponds breach, mines and bridges collapse, earthquakes and hurricanes devastate vulnerable places, and drought and wildfires wipe out crops. Although such events can be tragic, they are predictable, and should rarely be surprising.
- The work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has contributed greatly to the advancement of knowledge about the causes and consequences of climate change.1,2 It has been a key influence in forging a growing scientific consensus about the contribution of human activities in a range of sectors including power generation, transport, built environment and agriculture, and land use to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The potential impacts of climate change on human health have been reviewed by the IPCC.
- The late James P. Grant, who served as Director of UNICEF from 1980 to 1995, spoke of “the silent emergency,” embodied in the “daily tragedy of millions of children caught in the relentless downward spiral of poverty, population, and environmental degradation.”1 Were he alive today, he would undoubtedly have placed climate change, a silent emergency of enormous consequence, at the center of this vicious spiral. Indeed, the profound disruption of the earth's ecosystems has replaced environmental degradation as the operative term.