LINCOLN — Worsening asthma, emphysema and congestive heart failure; increased spread of infectious diseases.
The public health consequences of climate change described Monday by a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center weren't pretty.
Andrew Jameton, a professor of ethics and philosophy at UNMC, told about 140 people gathered in Lincoln for a national town hall meeting on climate change that public health is the de facto barometer of what is happening with climate.
“There are many things to worry about,” he said at the meeting, held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
These health problems will worsen as global warming intensifies in the decades ahead, he said, yet people might not connect them to climate change.
Jameton was among about 10 speakers at the town hall meeting, one of eight being held in the country on the National Climate Assessment. The report was published in draft form in January and is up for public comment until April 12.
The meeting was narrowly focused on the type of information the public, agencies, government and businesses need in order to act on climate change, said Glynis Lough, chief of staff for the National Climate Assessment. Policy is outside its scope.
The national report details the increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather that awaits future generations.
Jameton, who tracks lifespans and other aspects of public health, said Monday's discussion wasn't an academic one: Children born in the United States today have a realistic expectation of being alive at the end of the century.
Several researchers noted Monday that the world is warming along the worst-case trajectory. While there is considerable public debate and some disagreement by scientists on the fringes, experts in the field of global warming agree that human activity is the primary driver of climate change over the past 50 years.
Under human influence, the world is warming eight times faster than when it goes from an ice age into a warm epoch, the report notes. Future generations are inheriting a world unequipped to handle the coming climate change, it says.
Don Wilhite, a professor of applied climate science at UNL and one of the organizers of the event, said he sees a growing openness in Nebraska to the issue of climate change.
He noted the variety of groups represented at the meeting — including environmental and farm organizations and state agencies — as evidence of acceptance.
Nebraska has been directly affected by extreme weather. Last year was the state's warmest and driest. The year before, the worst flood on record washed down the Missouri River.
“It demonstrates that while there are skeptics, there are fewer and fewer of them,” Wilhite said.
To read the report or offer comment, see ncadac.globalchange.gov.
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