350Kishwaukee 350Kishwaukee, November 16, 2021

 

  1.  Introduction
  2. Consequences of the climate Crisis
  3. Are Climate and Weather the Same
  4. Why We Are Experiencing Changes in Our Weather
  5. Human-Caused Climate Change and Insurance
  6. Human-Caused Climate Change and Extreme Heat
  7. The Human-Caused Climate Impact on Public Health

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.       9/30/2021


1. INTRODUCTION

In their book on health Dr. Paul R. Epstein and Dan Ferber stressed the importance of taking action to mitigate the climate crisis the people living on Planet Earth are currently facing.  The most important action is to end the use of fossil fuels that release greenhouse gas emissions and instead rely on renewable forms of energy.  They said we need the Federal Government to take action to mandate the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources of energy. They believe that once the government makes the mandate with a date to end the use of coal, oil, and natural gas the private, business sector would take on the actions needed by providing new ideas, doing the work, and receiving the profits (pp. 274-75).

Epstein and Ferber pointed out that the United States has made societal changes of this magnitude twice. They pointed to two examples given by physicist James Hansen former Director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  Hansen pointed out that there was an energy revolution in the early years of the 20th century when the U.S. moved from “gaslight and horse-drawn carriages to light bulbs and automobiles” (p. 274). Hansen’s second example was the measures taken to fight World War II, which pulled the United States out from the Great Depression to become the leader of the modern world.

References:

Paul R. Epstein, MD and Dan Ferber. 2011. Changing Climate, Changing Health:    How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It. University of California Press.

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.       9/30/2021

2. CONSEQUENCES OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS

        “To change the world’s climate is to shake the foundations of Earth’s life support systems.”

ENVIRONMENTS:

  • Changes in temperatures will disrupt where plants can grow.
  • Warmer winter temperatures will not kill the eggs of parasites like bark beetles or the offspring of infectious pathogens such as the mosquitos that carry malaria and other diseases.
  • Drought can cause desertification and destructive dust storms.
  • Warmer temperatures will melt ice sheets and cause sea-level rise.
  • Clean and fresh water will become scarcer due to pollution, run-off from farms and cities that contain massive amounts of chemicals, the melting of ice sheets and glaciers, and when invaded by salt water due to see level rise.

WEATHER:

  • Changes will likely cause alterations in temperature, rainfall, snow, humidity, & seasons.
  • Extreme weather such as torrential rains, tornados, hurricanes, and heat waves will be worse and more frequent.
  • Harsher floods, droughts, and derechos will occur.

ANIMALS:

  • Animal diversity will continue to drop due to habitat and food loss.
  • Animals’ life cycle and habits will become out of sync with their habitats.
  • Fish and sea-life will suffer from nutrients added to water sources from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage runoff from towns and cities.
  • Winters are not cold enough to kill insect eggs, increasing their numbers.  Tropical species are expanding into temperate areas.

FARMING and FOOD:

  • Doubling of CO2 in the air could cause reduction of food production.
  • Higher temperatures will bring additional insects and viruses to temperate zones.
  • Soil deteriorates; artificial fertilizers help produce crops but do not rejuvenate the soil.
  • Areas of flooding, drought, and higher temperatures need different crops.

 HEALTH:

  • Climate Change is a risk multiplier that exacerbates existing health problems.
  • Climate distributes and impacts disease spread by insect vectors, water-borne, and infectious diseases.
  • Asthma and other respiratory diseases are triggered by pollution.
  • Depletion of ozone aggravates asthma, raises risk of pneumonia, and causes other diseases of the respiratory system.

HEALTH CONTINUED:

  • Temperatures above 90® F lead to heat stress, stroke, higher rates of accidents, reduced physical activity therefore reducing work capacity and productivity.
  • Particle Pollution caused by greenhouse gases released by vehicle traffic and fossil fuel power-plants can cause damage to the lungs, heart, eyes, and cardiovascular problems.

CITIES:

  • Coastal Cities are subject to sea-level rise which includes salt-water overcoming fresh water.
  • All cities will be affected by climate refugees.
  • Cities usually offer social capital fostering community interaction, encouraging creativity and providing many opportunities for education, health, and safety. However, pollution, excessive storms, heat, and cold keep people from attending events and activities.
  • Cities’ green spaces which allow connection with nature might lose grass, trees, and flowers.  Green spaces will have more insects if temperatures rise.

EMPLOYMENT:

  • Working outdoors in hot weather will cause productivity to drop as workers will need to take more breaks to drink water and rest.
  • Heat strain and heat stress can lower physical activity.
  • Heat exhaustion can lead to fainting, prickly heat rashes, dehydration, stroke, complication of heart, lung, kidney disease, and other chronic conditions.

References:

Paul R. Epstein, MD. and Dan Ferber. 2011. Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What we Can Do About It.

Goodell, J. 2017.  The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump. 2015. DIRE PREDICTIONS: Understanding Climate Change: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC. (2nd) NY: Penguin.

Goodell, J. 2017.  The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

August 2020 Midwest Derecho. wikipedia.org/wiki/August_2020_Midwest_derecho.

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.      8/2021

3. Are Climate and Weather the Same?

Both Climate and Weather have to do with temperature, precipitation, wind, cold fronts, and storms.  Weather refers to day-to-day conditions in one area.  The term climate is used when weather data is applied to a much larger region of the Earth.

We want to know the weather conditions for today in our town.  We can usually assume the weather is similar in two towns that are only 5 miles apart.  When we talk about climate there might be a number of different weather conditions in the area we want to discuss.  The weather in DeKalb and Sycamore is the same or might have small differences. There might be more cloud cover in one of the cities or one city might have 45 minutes of rain while the other only had fifteen minutes of rain.

We use the term climate when we are covering a much larger area. For example:  Some of the States in the Midwest like Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana share a similar climate. They have a climate that is warmer while Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin share a very different climate with much colder winters.

The climate used to be so predictable that we could explain when each season began and how each season was different from the other three seasons.  It is much more difficult to explain the differences now primarily because there are often days (or even weeks) that seem springlike in February and then in March the temperature drops to the colder temperatures we used to expect in February.

Climate change means there is a change in the weather in enough places so averaged together the climate conditions differ from what we experienced approximately twenty years ago.  For a while the words “global warming” were used to discuss the change; however, the conditions that changed are more than only the amount of heat we experience.

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.       8/26/2021

4. Why We Are Experiencing Changes in Our Weather

As you have probably noticed we are experiencing longer summers, shorter winters, and more rapid variations in weather temperatures than we used to have. We also have more heavy thunderstorms, tornados and worse winds in the Midwest. Not only can we see these changes, but scientists and weather reporters, are saying this is part of global warming that they talked about since the 1980s. As far back as the mid-1800s, English scientist John Tyndall “was among the first to conduct research which laid the ground for our understanding of the natural greenhouse effect and of climate change” (https://www.rigb.org/about/news/spring-2015/john-tyndall-correspondence).

The Sun provides the Earth with solar radiation in the forms of sunlight and energy. The Earth’s atmosphere is the blanket of gases that surrounds Earth and is held in place by gravity.  The atmosphere lets solar radiation pass through to Earth’s land and oceans.  The atmosphere can also let solar radiation reflect back out. Equal incoming and outgoing solar radiation maintained a stable balance of summer and winter temperatures from the 1850s to the 1980s.

In the late 1700s the Industrial Revolution started in Europe after people learned they could burn coal, oil, and gas to make electricity and run machines.  Burning coal, oil, and gas releases greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide, Methane, water vapor, and other gases) into the atmosphere that causes a rise in the temperature of Earth and its atmosphere. Now that people use coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, heat their houses, plow and care for farm fields, provide transportation, and power appliances as well as industrial machines there are much more of these greenhouse gases releasing heat into the atmosphere while only the same amount as before is being released back out.  So incoming and outgoing solar radiation is no longer in balance.  This is why our weather is no longer stable and we are experiencing warmer temperatures.

In order to learn about climate from the past, scientists look through all the data available.  They read books and handwritten notes from the times they are studying that were kept in universities, libraries, museums, and monasteries.  They study what they can find from lists of statistics, data, collections of artifacts and fossils the scientists have found in the ground, and in collections at universities and museums.  Scientists dig into the ground and pull-out cylinder cores from ice, the sea bottom, and soil.  Scientists also take cores which are drilled from the middle of a large trees and use other techniques such as radiocarbon dating.  They are able to measure the concentration of gases and solid materials found in the many cores they have; this has let them learn about the atmosphere and its weather from the past.

References:  Mann, Michael E. and Kump, Lee R. (May 2015). Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change. NYC, DK Publishing

(https://www.rigb.org/about/news/spring-2015/john-tyndall-correspondence).

5. Human-Caused Climate Change and Insurance

Many of the people who were first concerned about the changing climate were environmentalists before they added climate change to their worries.  However, over the past decades many people who are involved in health, urban development, and the financial sectors are also quite concerned about what is now being calling the climate crisis. Paul R. Epstein began his career as a doctor specializing in tropical diseases, he then added a public health degree. He served as the Associate Director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore and the other members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  His 2011 book, Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It includes chapters on the insurance industry and international finance.

Paul R. Epstein worked with John Coomber the CEO of Swiss Re Ltd., a European reinsurance company, and the United National Development Programme on a conference called the Climate Change Futures Project held in 2005. They realized they needed the insurance industry, financial and business leaders, experts in human health, medical care, and pharmaceutical areas, academic researchers, UN agencies, and conservation groups to talk and plan together.

Leaders from the insurance industry were used to taking risks; they formulated costs from past statistics and spread the risks over many policyholders. However, they were finding that they could not rely on the statistics from the past to determine present costs. “In particular, they [were] ill-prepared to manage the skyrocketing worldwide losses from natural catastrophes” (Epstein & Ferber, 2011 p. 204).

The teams of experts at the Project concluded that if the developed and developing countries continued to rely on fossil fuels, ecosystems would respond.  They came up with two different scenarios.  In the first scenario ecosystems responded gradually, even so the economic damage would be significant.  The climate caused natural events would lead to more frequent extreme weather, insurers’ reserves would be strained and would disrupt financial markets.

In their second scenario the ecosystems buckled, which caused the world to become chaotic and uncertain. There would be killer heat waves, more pests, pathogens and epidemics.  Droughts and stronger winds would spread more wild fires.  Violent storms would often bring down the electrical grids and close businesses.  Following this we would see “companies fold, and the insurance industry shrink” (Epstein & Ferber. 2011 p. 209).

As the Climate Change Futures Project assessment was being finished, Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank, was preparing a broad study for the British Chancellor Gordon Brown.  Stern’s study was on the economics of climate change. His study supported the conclusions of the Climate Change Futures Project.  Both Stern and Brown found the study’s results alarming!

The Stern Review warned that under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, there would be a one-in-two chance the Earth could experience a 5® C (9® F) average temperature increase by the end of this century. This rise would trigger a host of extreme economic and social consequences.  These would include the displacement of two hundred million people by rising sea levels, floods, and droughts; the extinction of up to half of all species; massive crop failures due to drought; and water shortages for one in six people worldwide.  Even a more moderate rise of 2® C–3® C (4®F–6®F) could trigger some of these effects.  “The most cost-effective actions identified by Stern are reducing the power industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency in buildings and other venues, and preventing deforestation” (Epstein & Ferber, 2011, p. 208).

This is why people in environmental groups, public health, urban development, and the financial sectors are telling President Biden, that ‘Yes, we do need to have a total transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources by 2030.

References:

Epstein, P. R. and Ferber, D. (2011) Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It. Berkeley: University of California Press.

https://www.nature.org/en-us/newsroom/illinois-climate-assessment/ April 20, 2021. Chicago.

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.       8/26/2021

6. HUMAN-CAUSED CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME HEAT

Extreme heat is weather that is hotter and or more humid than normal.  Heat waves are weather at or above extreme heat for three days or more. Temperatures at 95 Fahrenheit and above are associated with dangerous health impacts. Heat waves have an effect on daily living and on-the-job performance.  According to Dr. Paul R. Epstein, heat waves kill more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. (Changing Planet, Changing Health, p. 98).  The Center for Disease Control puts the number of heat-related death at over 600 each year.

Some health effects of hot days are mild such as exhaustion, rash, and sunburn.  Other effects, which can lead to death, include dehydration, cramps, heat stroke, and asthma.  Heat acts as a multiplier of preexisting health problems including heart and respiratory diseases, aggravation of kidneys, and diabetes.

Symptoms of an illness caused by excessive heat are exhaustion, dehydration, fever, hot and red skin or cold and clammy skin, fever, headache, dizziness, nausea, and fainting.   For symptoms of the five most frequent heat-related illnesses and what to do see the Center for Disease Control list two pages on or follow this link  https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html .

In addition to hotter temperatures, continuing climate change is expected to cause the frequency and intensity of heat waves and increase humidity.  Summers will start earlier and last longer; this might be good for agriculture unless the weather conditions are too hot for the particular variety of a crop or there is too much or little rain.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ recent survey, Too Hot to Work, extreme heat will affect outdoor workers including those in construction, agriculture, fire fighters, police, landscape, extraction, maintenance, repair, and transportation.  The survey raised two justice issues. The first is that the conditions of climate change will affect people of color disproportionately. Forty-five percent of outdoor workers identify as Black/African American or Latinx while they make up only 32 percent of general population of the U.S.  Outdoor workers “are already 35 times as more likely to die from heat exposure than the general population” (p 10).  The second issue Too Hot to Work raised is that the United States has the worst worker protections and compliance among major developed countries.  The federal government has no national safety standards and only three states have heat-related protective standards that are enforceable under law. California and Washington have had standards for a while but Oregon Governor Kate Brown only asked the Oregon Department of Occupational Safety and Health agency to write up emergency rules for outdoor workplaces after the June 2021 heat wave.

On September 2, 2021 Representative Judy Chu of California and five other Representatives introduced a bill in Congress that directs Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement national standards for outside workers to protect them from heat-related illnesses.  On September 20, 2021 U. S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh announced that he would initiate work on standards for protecting workers from heat caused by climate change.  According to the UCS article (p. 11) this will raise the cost of farming.

There are a number of costs for the employer who offers heat protection to workers. These include purchasing shade tents, providing cold water or other cold beverages, and providing sleeping quarters for workers who stay overnight. In addition, when safety standards require more breaks for employees to give them time to cool down, the employees expect to be paid for the breaks.  Outdoor workers may lose some of their wages if they—or their boss- decide that the day is too hot to work.  Dr. Epstein suggested the best way to avoid heat waves is to work towards reducing the use of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases (p.100).

References:

Centers for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html).

Paul R. Epstein, MD. and Dan Ferber. 2011. Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What we Can Do About It.

Sergio Olmos. Sept. 5, 2021. “When Hard Jobs Turn Hazardous.” In The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/04/business/economy/heat-wildfires-drought-farmworkers.htmline).

Michelle Rama-Roccia. 2021 “Too Hot to Work” in Union of Concerned Scientists Catalyst. Volume 21, Summer 2021 pp 8-11 & 20-21.

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.       8/26/2021

7. Human-Caused Climate Change and Public Health

Climatologists and others have been studying the climate crisis happening around us. They have noted that there are many effects that are either already having an impact on public health or are likely to have an impact. This article will point out the changes expected in our weather and explain some of the problems these changes will bring.

Weather changes include increased temperatures; frequency and duration of heat waves; intensity and duration of rain, severe storms, flooding and drought; desertification; wildfires; rising sea level and ocean acidization.

Many of the influences of climate change on public health are not direct and are seen only over a period of time.  Some of the changes impact natural systems.  Rising temperatures allow pathogens and insects to expand their territory. Fossil fuel emissions make changes in the atmosphere which affect plants including crops, and therefore affect people. Rising sea level and warmer water bring more destructive hurricanes and monsoons.

Other climate changes are risk multipliers of health problems and other existing stresses people face. Droughts that lead to crop failures cause farmers to move to cities which increases urban density, and adds multiple stresses concerning employment, mental health, violence, and food insecurity.  Some of the diseases caused by these climate changes are discussed below.

As temperatures rise. many water-borne and vector-borne diseases are extending their territory from the tropics into temperate zones. In the U. S. more than half of waterborne gastrointestinal outbreaks are associated with extreme rain with a month interval before detection of the illness.

Vector-borne diseases can only be transmitted when four factors are available.  Minimally, these factors include suitable vertebrate hosts, blood-feeding by the vectors (biting insects or ticks), replication by the pathogens, and a suitable environment with the right weather and rain.  Hot, dry summers have allowed the West Nile virus to show-up in the United States.  New York had a very hot summer in 1999 with a heat wave that produced major public health problems including the largest mosquito-borne encephalitis outbreak in the Western Hemisphere and the largest West Nile Virus outbreak ever experienced anywhere.

Higher temperatures and drought lead to changing patterns and composition of air pollution. This can lead to more unhealthy haze and smog over cities. Sand and dust storms arise in deserts and when the wind is right, the storm can travel thousands of miles. These storms include particles of sand, dust, smoke from both home cooking fires and wildfire, ash, soot, virus spores, dirt, and other particulate matter.  These small particles can penetrate into lungs which aggravates chronic heart and lung diseases.  Pollution can also cause burning eyes and dry eyes.

Heat and sunlight cause oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons released by traffic to react and become ozone.   Ozone at ground level can cause asthma attacks, respiratory symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, and illnesses including allergies, COPD and chronic bronchitis. Weakening of the ozone layer in the atmosphere’s stratosphere can cause skin cancers and cataracts in eyes from increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation and sunlight. (Levy & Patz p. 105-106)

Ragweed, like many weeds, grows faster in disturbed environments and have increased levels of` pollen production when subject to high levels of carbon dioxide.  Another pollutant, black soot which is emitted by diesel trucks, can glom onto pollen grains and then both go deep into people’s lungs. Allergies and asthma are increasing. With higher temperatures, spring— hay fever season–is now extended two to three weeks longer than was experienced in the 1980s. (Epstein, p. 95).

Plants including food crops, are subject to various infectious diseases carried by viruses, fungi, bacteria, and oomycetes (water molds).  The host plant carrying an infectious disease might be introduced in a new area where the disease had not previously been. If the disease spreads the crop yield might be less than expected.  Heat-stressed plants also have small yields.  If temperatures continue to rise and are wetter their yields might go down significantly.

In their book, Changing Planet, Changing Health, Paul R. Epstein, MD and Dan Ferber remind us in order to preserve an environment that is good for people’s health we needed to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  They wrote,

“To create a truly sustainable future, we must accept limits.  These start with laws and regulations that change an economic system that thrives on overconsumption and that constrain damaging corporate behavior. . . .             To fight climate change as oil runs low, as a society we’ll be forced to curb our own appetites.  But in accepting limits, we’ll reap tremendous health benefits.”

                                                                                                          References:

Paul R. Epstein, MD and Dan Ferber. 2011. Changing Climate, Changing Health:    How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It. University of California Press.

https://www.epa.gov/ozone-pollution-and-your-patients-health/health-effects-                                        ozone-general-population

https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/how-smoke-fires-can-affect-your-health

Barry S. Levy & Jonathan A. Patz (eds.). 2015. Climate Change and Public Health.

Oxford University Press.

Put together by Meryl Greer Domina, merylkgd@gmail.com. This has no copyright so it can be copied and shared to further people’s knowledge about the climate crisis we are experiencing.       9/30/2021

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