From the Inflation Reduction Act to the Massachusetts Climate Law, 2022 brought us unprecedented climate action at every level. We were proud to inform these policies with solutions-focused research, education and training for the next generation of leaders, guidance for local healthcare workers, and by shifting the climate narrative with media, events, and outreach. Please see below for a snapshot of our year. I want to thank our funders and partners for all of their support in making this work possible. Here’s to building a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable world for our kids in 2023 and beyond.
Dr. Aaron Bernstein
Interim Director, Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Our research shaped policies, kept people safe, and guided the health care industry’s response to climate change. We published nearly two dozen studies, journal articles, and commentaries which led us to secure over 670 media clips. Our most impactful work included:
- The first study to test for health-damaging air pollutants in unburned natural gas used in homes, led by Drew Michanowicz, PhD, which found at least 21 different hazardous air pollutants in homes in the greater Boston area. We provided actions that policymakers and individuals can take to mitigate health risks. Study in Environmental Science & Technology | Key Takeaways
- Research led by Dr. Aaron Bernstein identifying the flooding risk to nearly 700 hospitals near the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts due to storms and sea level rise made worse by climate change and recommendations to create plans that build on best practices to protect infrastructure and patient health. Study in GeoHealth | Key Takeaways
- Research outlining three cost-effective actions to help decision makers prevent future pandemics by stopping “spillover” of diseases from animals into humans: better surveillance of pathogens, better management of wildlife trade and hunting, and reduced deforestation. The annual costs of these actions (~$20 billion) are less than 5% of the lowest estimated value of lives lost from emerging infectious diseases every year. Study in Science Advances | Key Takeaways
- Two studies on child emergency department visits showing that hotter days harm children’s health and highlighting the need for actions to protect children and adolescents from extreme heat made worse by climate change. Study in Environmental Research: Health | Study in Environmental Health Perspectives | Key Takeaways
- The 2022 global report from The Lancet Countdown and the accompanying U.S. Policy Brief, led by Dr. Renee Salas, showing that burning fossil fuels directly harms health. It details the climate change impacts of extreme heat, infectious diseases, air pollution, and mental health harms, and provides climate solutions and policy recommendations to improve health. U.S. Brief | Key Takeaways
Empowering the Next Generation of Climate Leaders
- We launched a Climate and Health Research Network at Harvard Chan School to better coordinate, support, and amplify research. Our goal is to bring our faculty, doctoral and post-doctoral students together to build a community of scholarship and catalyze new research collaborations.
- We welcomed 122 high school students from 25 states and nine countries to Harvard for our second annual Youth Summit on Climate, Equity, and Health. Due to the generosity of our sponsors, we financially supported 1/5 of the student population and brought young people together who otherwise would not have been able to attend. Learn about a typical summit day and our upcoming youth summit.
- We recruited our fifth and largest ever cohort of Student Ambassadors, twenty master’s and doctoral students from across Harvard Chan that we’re supporting and helping become climate and health leaders in their fields.
- We welcomed two new emergency medicine fellows, Drs. Tess Wiskel and Kimberly Humphrey, to our Climate Change and Human Health Fellowship with FXB that Dr. Caleb Dresser helps lead. Together with Dr. Salas, our fellows attended COP27 to raise awareness of how climate change impacts health and to ensure the outcomes have real-world benefits. Read their key takeaways.
- Dr. Gaurab Basu, our Health Equity Fellow, recruited his second cohort to the Climate Health Organizing Fellows Program, which is creating a vibrant educational space and community to enable health professionals to develop and advance climate solutions.
Building Climate Resilient Health Clinics
- Through our Climate MD program, we launched the Climate Resilience for Frontline Clinics toolkit in collaboration with Americares and with financial support from Biogen. These resources take a patient-centered approach to climate action, which we defined in JAMA, to help community health centers and clinics providing free or low-cost health care better manage care and protect patients from climate risks like extreme heat, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. The toolkit, launched during Boston Globe’s Climate Week, was based on a groundbreaking survey of over 450 clinic staff from 47 U.S. states and territories to identify knowledge gaps and real-world challenges of caring for patients during and after climate shocks. We also announced plans at the Clinton Global Initiative 2022 Meeting to expand the project globally by adapting the toolkit for use in at least three low- and middle-income countries over the next five years. Check out coverage of the toolkit in Axios.
Changing the Narrative
We shifted the messaging on climate change by focusing on how climate solutions are health solutions and the need to protect patients from climate risks.
- Our experts were interviewed over 180 times in 2022, generating over 670 media clips across local, national, and global outlets like New York Times, AP, CNN, and NPR. We also began a regular appearance on The Weather Channel’s show about climate change.
- Our monthly Climate Optimist newsletter grew nearly 30% and now reaches over 8,300 inboxes. We’re shifting attitudes away from climate doom to optimism and hope with coverage by The Weather Channel, The Christian Science Monitor, and Well+Good, and we were thrilled to write the definition of ‘climate optimism’ for Google.
- A wave of climate scientists, educators, and activists are using social media to combat misinformation and inspire action, which is why we released a list of Climate Creators to Watch on social media with Pique Action. We brought seven creators to Harvard to educate our researchers and staff on how to be effective science communicators.
- To help health professionals be more effective when talking about the health effects of climate change, the Center for Health Communications developed 10 research-backed tips based on research by Dr. Salas in the New England Journal of Medicine and Translational Behavioral Medicine.