Columbia experts say extreme heat is a health crisis
A group of scientists warned on Monday that the record heat experienced by the Earth during the summer of 2022 will be repeated without a strong international effort to tackle climate change.
Experts say heat-related deaths, wildfires, extreme rainfall and persistent drought are expected to become increasingly severe as both ocean and atmospheric temperatures continue to rise. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions ceased today, the Earth would continue to warm for several decades.
The presentation, “Virtual Earth Chain: Extreme Heat, Record Broken,” featured a multidisciplinary team of science experts from Columbia University.
Radley Horton, a research professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, claims that human-caused climate change has warmed the average global atmospheric temperature by about 2 degrees (1.1 degrees). degrees Celsius) over the past few decades.
“One of the key takeaways is that a little change in global temperature has a huge impact,” Horton said. Some of the key consequences include longer-lasting and more intense heat waves that are hitting increasingly larger areas.
In addition, Horton said, certain climate models underestimate the severity of certain events, such as the 2022 European heat wave and the Pacific Northwest heat wave. year 2021.
“We’re stuck in so many climate hazards, there’s no other way to overcome it,” Horton said.
Diana Hernandez, Associate Professor of Social Medical Sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, is studying how certain vulnerabilities, such as medical conditions or access to energy, can be affected by climate change nationally and internationally. Expected impacts include unequal shade, urban heat islands, and unequal access to energy-powered medical devices.
“The climate is changing and we’re not adapted to be able to deal with it from a health perspective,” said Cecilia Sorensen, MD and associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Medical Center. .
Sorensen notes that she and her colleagues have called summer “trauma season” early in her career, even before she focuses on the health effects of climate change. “We used to be inundated with patients… who came in with heart attacks and asthma attacks.”
Despite the foregoing climate projections, panelists expressed hope that significant strides could be made to mitigate future climate impacts associated with extreme temperatures. High.
Hernandez said a community-focused approach, particularly with an emphasis on inclusive participation, would be successful in implementing a range of climate adaptation strategies.
One solution hospitals could take, Sorenson said, is to develop emergency room procedures to treat large numbers of patients with heatstroke or related conditions during extreme weather. She says improved communications are also needed to raise awareness about the medical risks of extreme heat and how to prevent the effects.
Sorensen said: “In the problem there is a solution.
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