Nature and Health researchers publish new paper on the beneficial impacts of nature exposure for Amazon employees; results suggest stress reduction benefits

Nature and Health Researcher Kathleen Wolf featured in recent White House fact sheet

UW Climate Impacts Group, partner organizations launch the Northwest Climate Resilience Collaborative

UN Ocean Decade endorses Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center’s ‘Ocean Voices’ as an official ‘Decade of Action’ program

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell named Fritzky Chair in Leadership at UW’s Foster School of Business

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.

EarthLab and Population Health co-fund pilot grant to improve communication around smoke exposure in rural and Tribal communities

EarthLab and the Population Health Initiative have announced a new pilot research grant award to study how Tribal and non-Tribal communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area (ORAEA) receive and communicate information about smoke exposure.

Due to climate change, wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity across the western United States. While land managers have increasingly been proactive in “fighting fire with fire,” i.e., using prescribed fires to prevent severe wildfires, this means that people in Tribal and rural areas will be exposed to smoke outside of the traditional fire season. Therefore, this project aims to address this with effective risk communication for the potentially affected populations.

EarthLab is proud to co-fund this project with Population Health, a new center at UW that addresses the challenges that arise at the intersection of human health, environmental resilience and social and economic equity. The EarthLab Innovation Grants Program invests in interdisciplinary and community-led projects that develop innovative solutions and strategies to pressing environmental challenges. The 2021-2022 Request for Proposal (RFP) will be announced later this year.

About the Project

Project Title
Characterizing Risk Communication Around Smoke Exposure in Rural and Tribal Communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area

Ernesto Alvarado, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Savannah D’Evelyn, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (postdoctoral scholar)
Nicole Errett, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Cody Desautel, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Project abstract
Wildfires across the western United States are increasing in frequency and severity. To lessen the negative impacts of high severity wildfires on both human and forest health, fuel management strategies such as prescribed fires (Rx fires) are being utilized. Use of Rx fires results in less severe wildfires and thus less severe smoke events. However, managing fire with fire increases the frequency of smoke exposure in rural communities outside of fire season.

To address this balance, we must start with effective risk communication for potentially affected populations. The goal of this project is to describe how tribal and non-tribal communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area (ORAEA) receive and communicate information about smoke exposure.

Through key informant interviews and focus groups, we aim to identify the community and cultural perceptions of smoke exposure and describe its impact on the community. We will partner with representatives from the Natural Resource Division for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CNRD), the Colville Environmental Trust Air Quality Program (CETAQP), and Washington Prescribed Fire Council (WPFC) to reach communities on and off the Colville reservation.

By working with these partners, we will describe perceived risk of smoke exposure, improve real-time culturally responsive risk communication, as well as advance and evaluate each community’s outreach goals. This work will set the stage for new and continued community-academic partnerships to develop effective and relevant resources and risk communication to enhance the resilience to, and reduce the disproportionate health risks of, smoke exposure.

View the full slate of Population Health 2021 pilot research grants here

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.

Bookmark These New Websites for Future Rivers, Ocean Nexus Center & Washington Ocean Acidification Center

A website is often the first impression of an organization, especially in our increasingly digital (and virtual) world.

Along with the College of the Environment marketing and communications team, EarthLab works with our member organizations to develop websites that will convey their mission and brand. We’re thrilled to present three new websites for Future Rivers, Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center & Washington Ocean Acidification Center (WOAC).

Project to Create Anti-Racism Education Wins Mellon Grant

Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, faculty advisor for EarthLab member organization Future Rivers and assistant professor in the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs, is part of a team of academics that was recently awarded $5 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an interdisciplinary, multi-year project to advance anti-racist practices and pedagogy in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

The Humanities Education for Anti-Racism Literacy (HEAL) in the Sciences and Medicine was awarded to a collaborative team that will be based out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The principle investigators are: Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong (Native Education); Christy Clark-Pujara (Higher Education); Elizabeth Hennessy (Coordinator and Higher Education); R. Justin Hougham (Environmental Education & Equity); Erika Marín-Spiotta (STEM Higher Education); Maxine McKinney de Royston (Learning While Black); Todd Michelson-Ambelang (Libraries); Monica White (Community Engagement); and Cleo Woelfle-Erskine (Native Education). The project team also includes community and Tribal partners in Madison, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Woelfle-Erskine credits funding and support from the EarthLab Innovation Grants program for his project, Píkyav on the Mid-Klamath River: Peeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh “The River Will Look Good,” as a factor in receiving this new funding.

“Thanks to you all for your early support of this project through the Innovation Grants Program,” said Woelfle-Erskine. “The funding and mentorship you have provided allowed us to make crucial progress this summer and has deepened the collaboration between my lab and Karuk Tribe collaborators, which has resulted in a funding proposal through the Mellon Just Futures Initiative.”

Learn more about the 2020 Innovation Grants program

Learn more about the Mellon Grant