COP26: Reflections from the Global Climate Conference & Implications for UW

About the Event

As a UN registered Research & Independent Non-Governmental Organization (RINGO), UW sent three official delegates to the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP 26. These delegates were UW’s three “observers” participating in the meetings, appointed by the Office of Global Affairs.

EarthLab and the Office of Global Affairs have invited the three UW delegates to communicate with the broader UW community their reflections on the global conference and what we – as a university and as individuals – might do to follow up.

Kristie Ebi, Professor, Center for Health and the Global Environment
Deb Morrison, Research Scientist, College of Education
Maya Tolstoy, Incoming Dean, College of the Environment

Ben Packard, EarthLab
Jeff Riedinger, Vice Provost, Office of Global Affairs

Dec 16, 2021 02:30 PM PT


View the Recording

Worrisome trends and a ‘code red’ for health in the face of climate change

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New UW collaboratory to support equitable and just climate action

Apply Now to the APRU-UW Student Global Climate Change Simulation

Burning Embers: Synthesis of the Health Risks of Climate Change

New paper in Environmental Research co-authored by leaders from the Center for Health and the Global Environment

Policymakers want to know the pace, magnitude, and pattern of possible climate change risks for population health and health systems, to inform prioritization of investments to prepare for and manage the challenges of a changing climate. There is growing evidence that climate change is already causing illnesses and deaths from high ambient temperature, exposure to high levels of ozone, dengue fever, and Lyme disease.

Additional climate change is projected to increase for heat-related morbidity and mortality, ozone-related mortality, dengue and Lyme disease from undetectable to severe risks as the planet continues to warm, according to new research published by the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) at the University of Washington and its collaborators.

Burning Embers: Synthesis of the Health Risks of Climate Change” was published March 30, 2021, in Environmental Research Letters. Authors include Kristie L. Ebi, and Dr. Jeremy Hess, with partners from the Public Health Agency of Canada, University of Haifa, University of Waterloo, the World Health Organization and the University of Auckland.

Since 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports have included a summary of how risks in human and natural systems could change with additional warming above pre-industrial levels, generally accompanied by a figure called the “burning embers.” This is the first effort to develop a similar figure to visualize selected risks of climate change on health under different scenarios.

The research found that recent climate change is likely beginning to affect the burden of West Nile fever. A detectable impact of climate change on malaria is not yet apparent but is expected to occur with additional warming. The paper also assessed that the extent and pace of adaptation could alter the timing and severity of increasing risks for each climate-sensitive health outcome as global mean surface temperature increases above pre-industrial levels.

The authors conducted an extensive global literature review to construct the burning embers figure based on projected risk to health outcomes under 1.5C, 2C and >2C degrees of warming, under three adaptation scenarios. The burning embers figure may be useful to policymakers, ministries of health and other decision-makers to raise awareness of health impacts from climate risks and expand their adaptation efforts to protect the health and environment of their populations.

Population health grants boost wildfire and climate research

Achoo! Climate Change Lengthening Pollen Season in U.S., Study Shows

New research suggests that climate change is responsible for longer pollen seasons in the United States and more pollen in the air, as well.

This article, featuring a quote from Kristi Ebi (Center for Health and the Global Environment) was originally published in The New York Times.

close up image of a bee on a flower
Climate change could account for about half of the trend of a longer pollen season, a new study suggests. Credit…iStock/Getty


Among the many disasters climate change is wreaking around the world, scientists have now identified a more personal one: It’s making allergy season worse.

That is the message of a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published on Monday. The researchers found a strong link between planetary warming and pollen seasons that will make many of us dread spring just a little bit more.

According to the new paper, the combination of warming air and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has caused North American pollen seasons since 1990 to start some 20 days earlier, on average, and to have 21 percent more pollen.

Scientists have suggested for some time that the season is getting longer and more awful, and the new research provides greater detail and estimates of just how much a warming planet is responsible for the greater misery. They concluded that climate change caused about half of the trend in the pollen season, and 8 percent of the higher pollen count. What’s more, the trend of higher pollen counts, the researchers said, is accelerating.

The most pronounced effects were seen in Texas, the Midwest and the Southeast, said William Anderegg, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah and the lead author of the new study. The effects were less obvious in the northern United States, including New England and the Great Lakes states. The greatest pollen increases came from trees, as opposed to grasses and weeds, he said.

The researchers employed the techniques of attribution science, which is commonly used to state the degree to which extreme weather events like heat waveswildfires or the amount of rain a hurricane brings are worse than they would have been in a world without climate change.

Applying this branch of science to pollen was a novel and welcome idea, said Kristie Ebi, a professor in the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study. “It’s a great piece of work,” she said. “There has been very little research on the application of detection and attribution analysis to the health risks of a changing climate.”

Read more at The New York Times.

CHanGE Comes to EarthLab

New collaboration between UW Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) and EarthLab will accelerate climate research, action and resilience.

Today, EarthLab announced that The Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE), an initiative within the Departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) and Global Health in the University of Washington School of Public Health, has joined EarthLab as its eighth member organization. CHanGE will receive strategic operational and communications support from EarthLab staff as it enhances EarthLab’s increased focus on addressing the climate crisis and increases EarthLab’s global scope.

CHanGE is a community of researchers, teachers, practitioners and students working together to highlight the connections between climate change and human health, with a focus on supporting interventions to reduce risks; training the next generation of climate and health practitioners; and working with community and practice partners to support healthy climate action.

ChanGE’s diverse membership includes 34 faculty from across the UW and around the country as well as practice partners throughout the region and world. CHanGE invites new members to join from the UW, other colleges and universities, and community and governmental organizations by visiting here. The center was founded by UW Professor Dr. Kristie Ebi in 2014. 

 “Public health is about partnership. CHanGE’s home is in public health, but our partners are in a wide range of other disciplines, particularly the environmental sciences,” said Dr. Jeremy Hess, CHanGE’s director. 

“Joining EarthLab strengthens CHanGE’s connection with other UW organizations focused on climate change and makes it easier to integrate health into their work. The partnership also facilitates broad engagement and programming, allowing us to fulfill our mission of highlighting the connections between climate change and health in a wide range of settings,” said Hess, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, global health and emergency medicine and adjunct professor of atmospheric science.

EarthLab provides each member organization with critical administrative and communications support to amplify their work addressing significant environmental challenges. These challenges range from ocean acidification, ocean equity, sea level rise and freshwater ecosystems to forest fires, the connection between nature and health, and increasing diversity in the conservation field. Current members include: Climate Impacts Group, Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, Future Rivers, Nature and Health, The Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, Northwest Climate Adaptation Center and Washington Ocean Acidification Center. Learn more about EarthLab member organizations

“We know that addressing complex environmental problems means pushing against boundaries and EarthLab member organizations do this in many innovative ways,” said Ben Packard, executive director of EarthLab.

“We are eager to help Jeremy and his team bring their research to practice in order to protect people’s health in our changing environment,” Packard said. “This new partnership with CHanGE paves the way for greater impact on our shared desire for action in the face of climate change.”

This is the first member organization led by UW faculty from outside of the College of the Environment, signaling new potential for EarthLab collaborations across the breadth of UW’s schools and colleges. Although EarthLab was founded within the College of the Environment, it exists to connect University of Washington units with each other, as well as connect the university with the wider community, under a vision of creating an equitable, just and sustainable world where people and planet thrive. Learn more about EarthLab.