Shining a light on the human toll of climate change

Climate change and health illustration

November 30, 2023 – Experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are bringing an important message to the United Nations’ annual climate conference this year: that the continued burning of fossil fuels poses a massive health threat.

A November 29 Boston Globe article about COP28, the two-week international climate summit being held this year in Dubai, noted that, for the first time, the event will include a Health Day at which experts will discuss the wide-ranging impacts on human health from extreme weather, infectious diseases, and air pollution.

More than a dozen faculty, researchers, and students affiliated with Harvard are attending the summit. Harvard Chan experts quoted in the Globe article include Gaurab Basu, Francesca Dominici, and Elizabeth Willetts.

“Rule number one for health professionals is to bring the stories of our patients—to bring the human face of these numbers—into the conversation and create an accountability for that,” said Basu, a physician and director of education and policy at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE).

Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science, will discuss the deadly impacts of air pollution driven by climate change. Dominici’s latest study showed how many deaths are linked with air pollution at individual coal-fired power plants in the U.S. “The climate conversation is all about burning fossil fuels, and burning fossil fuels is the main and most toxic source of air pollution,” she said.

Willetts, visiting scholar and planetary health policy director in the Department of Environmental Health, hopes to highlight the importance of considering the health outcomes of climate change in international climate talks.

Read the Boston Globe article: As world leaders gather for climate talks in Dubai, public health experts ramp up their message

Read a C-CHANGE article: Meet the COP28 Climate and Health Cohort

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