Ebi: Mitigation key to curbing climate change impacts

Dr. Kristie Ebi, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Kristie L. Ebi, Ph.D., MPH

October 17, 2019
Gonzaga University

Dr. Kristie L. Ebi, Ph.D., MPH of the University of Washington spoke about a host of health impacts related to growing concerns over climate change in an Oct. 3 Next Generation Medicine lecture in Spokane presented by the UW School of Medicine-Gonzaga University Health Partnership.

Emerging science shares alarming predictions on climate change’s effects on survival resources such as crops, sanitary water, and steady weather conditions. Amid the vulnerability, Ebi asserts there are ways we can protect ourselves.

Ebi has been conducting research on the health risks of climate variability and change for over 20 years. Her work focuses on understanding sources of vulnerability, estimating current and future health risks of climate change, and designing adaptation policies and measures to reduce the risks in multi-stressor environments.

She holds the Rohm & Haas Endowed Professorship in Public Health Sciences. Her scientific training includes an M.S. in toxicology, a Ph.D. and a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology, and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has edited four books on aspects of climate change and has more than 180 publications.

Ebi says the short-term fixes for climate change are relatively simple and, if we all partake, we can pave the way for long-term sustainability. She says the key to adaption is mitigation. We can mitigate our health concerns by being environmentally conscious in our everyday lives. 

She also addressed one of the biggest arguments used to curb environmental protection policies: that we, as a society, can’t afford them. However, Ebi argues that in 2018 the U.S. lost 30 billion dollars in weather and climate disasters. Therefore, we can’t afford to do nothing. 

“We need to be mitigating our health, and the planet along the way,” says Ebi. 

Ebi noted that since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution our planet has endured temperature anomalies over our lands and oceans. As a result, we have already seen a multitude of ecosystems that are now functionally extinct and we can expect more detrimental impacts to follow at a rapid rate. What sort of health concerns does this insinuate? According to Ebi, it is our most vulnerable populations who will endure the harshest realities. 

With this in mind, she points out that 85 percent of the health risks of climate change are in children and that global healthcare facilities aren’t prepared to address it. Ebi says that data shows by 2050 our global temperature will have increased by a half degree. 

What does that increase mean and how will it affect Washingtonians? She argues that by 2080, we may see an influx of Aedes Aegypti mosquitos throughout the country, including Seattle. These mosquitos will be carrying diseases and viruses such as Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever. Some more immediate impacts would be a sharp reduction of crop yields. Ebi stresses this will affect our nutrition as a population. However, it will most impact those living in poverty who depend on starches for calories. 

The question, asks Ebi, is “How do we protect the most vulnerable in a changing climate?”

View Ebi’s Next Generation Medicine Lecture (10.3.19)