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May 15, 2014

The Climate and Our Health

The state of the climate affects the state of our health.

Recently, the state of the climate has been in the headlines. Who am I kidding? It’s nearly always in the headlines, or at the very least, the news. Depending on your perspective, climate change is a political hot potato, and it has been for decades. So, when it makes the news, everyone has an opinion on it.

I’ve written before how I wish that the weather weren’t so politicized, and the reason is simple: when you politicize an issue in this era, you create a sense that there can be no in-between stance on it. People either adamantly agree or vehemently disagree on it.

I was brought up in a household that doesn’t talk politics with strangers, so I naturally shy away from writing about politically sensitive topics. However, I am a meteorologist, and there are numerous questions about the climate out there, so I will do my best to cover them without getting too political.

But first, some history…

Back in 1989, by presidential initiative, the U.S. Global Change Research Program was established “to assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” This federal program consists of employees and leadership of 13 government agencies including NOAA, NASA, and the NSF. According to the website, its vision is “A Nation, globally engaged and guided by science, meeting the challenges of climate and global change.” Within the program, working groups “implement and coordinate research activities within and across agencies.”

The national conversation about climate change has been ongoing for decades. As more reports are produced by working groups and scientists across the globe and those reports are covered by media, the awareness of climate-related issues, particularly where public health is concerned, has trickled down into more local levels of public policy. We can see examples just by reading the News & Observer regularly.

No matter where you fall on the belief spectrum…

Whether you believe that humans are greatly influencing, moderately influencing, or minimally influencing the change in the average global temperature, the fact is that the temperature is changing. Such is the nature of the climate, though. It is not a fixed thing; it is quite dynamic. That being said, we have to look at ways to do what we can to slow the rate of change when possible, and adapt to what is already happening. Truly how we deal with the situation is a matter of public health and well-being.

In the coming weeks, I plan to write more about this topic, specifically how it affects North Carolinians and the local organizations involved in the research, planning, and education and outreach required to address the current and future changes.

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