Oct. 17, 2019
Every action matters: Many options available to address climate change
Keynote Kristie Ebi speaks on climate change impacts Oct. 22 ahead of UCalgary’s Sustainability Strategy progress update
On Oct. 22, Dr. Kristie Ebi will deliver a keynote talk for UCalgary’s Sustainability Strategy. Ebi has been working in the field of climate variability and change for nearly 25 years and was an author on both the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Global Warming of 1.5ºC and the United States’ fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA)
“Most research on climate variability and change focuses on one outcome at a time, but a region will need to prepare for and manage multiple outcomes,” she says. “For example, Pacific islands need to simultaneously cope with sea level rise, larger storm surges, outbreaks of vector-borne and other infectious diseases, and malnutrition.”
Undernutrition is one of the largest health risks associated with climate change. Ebi explains that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are affecting our food supply in two basic ways. First, by fuelling climate change, they are affecting yields of major crops in some regions. “Increased temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, increased ozone concentrations, as well as more frequent and extreme heatwaves, floods, and droughts can reduce crop yields, particularly in the tropics.” Second, increased carbon dioxide concentrations can worsen the nutritional quality of our food – for rice, wheat, and potentially other cereal crops, higher CO2 concentrations reduce protein and mineral concentrations by 5-15%.
“Approximately 850 million people globally are food insecure,” says Ebi. “Micronutrient deficiencies cause a much larger burden of disease than food insecurity, with approximately 2 billion people having deficiencies in iron, zinc, and other micronutrients. These deficiencies adversely affect cognitive development, metabolism, increase the incidence of obesity and diabetes, and affect other health outcomes, potentially resulting in adverse health and welfare outcomes across the life course.”
It can be overwhelming to consider the breadth of the risks of climate variability and change — but there are also ways to be involved and promote resilience. “Actions on mitigation and adaptation are needed at all scales, from individuals to communities to organizations to provincial and national governments,” says Ebi.
People can reduce their GHG emissions through increased energy efficiencies like powering down lights and electronics when not in use, replacing car trips with walking, biking, or using public transit, and engaging in activities that promote local and regional resilience to climate change. On campus, people can get involved with the Sustainable Events and Offices program, or read more about our renewed Climate Action Plan to help be carbon neutral by 2050.
“Climate change is affecting health and well-being today and there are many, many options to better manage today’s challenges and to avoid much — but not all — of the projected risks through adaptation and mitigation,” says Ebi.