J7.6 Science Communication: Meteorologists and Climate Change & Health

Thursday, 14 January 2016: 2:30 PM
Room 228/229 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Jay Lemery, University of Colorado , Denver, Colorado; and C. Sorensen

Science Communication: Meteorologists and Climate Change & Health

2015 had some of the most extreme winter weather in recent memory, mostly concentrated in the national media centers of the Northeast. Yet in the face of growing evidence of the detrimental link between climate change & human health, many saw the extreme winter weather as ‘proof' that global warming due to climate change remains uncertain, rather than adding to the scientific consensus of more energetic and unpredictable meteorological cycles. This gap in science understanding was famously epitomized when a member of Congress threw a snowball in the Senate chamber.

Yet the evidence overwhelmingly supports that the effects of anthropogenic climate change are increasingly apparent and accelerating at an ominous pace. Global warming will now continue under all future scenarios, and immediate action can only slow, not reverse, the rate of warming. Our society's risk assessment has yet to translate into meaningful mitigation and, even with this knowledge, major industrial nations are continuing to invest significantly in new carbon-based energy technologies.

Responsibility, governance, and accountability for climate change remain elusive. There is a chasm between apparent comprehension of the seriousness of climate threats and appetite for policy change and effective personal action. Ambitious long-term energy policies are absent and the complex science of climate change is subject to political lobbying, corporate manipulation, and rampant individual skepticism. This leads to an unnecessary and deliberate sense of confusion that undermines an imperative for intervention. Without a clear mandate for action, policymakers ignore the long-term threat for short-term gains.

We see a need for effective science communication, and much like we have done to mobilize the medical community, we propose an evidence-based curriculum for meteorologists to interface with the public, enhancing their ability to not only be effective science communicators in climate science, but also to understand the important link between climate change to human health. It is as educators and respected interlocutors that meteorologists can play a role. They are on of society's go-betweens, routinely translating abstract earth science into digestible language. People still trust their weather reporters.

To empower meteorologists in issues of climate change and human health is to allow them to have a deeper understanding of the context of extreme weather events and weather patterns such as droughts or floods. They will have keener insight into changes in vector borne disease patterns, harmful algae blooms, and changes in aeroallergens.

To that end, we propose a concentrated curriculum to the members of the AMS for joint implementation through open-access videos, written curriculum, and/or a short ‘nanocourse' at future AMS meetings.

Below is an outline of the essential topics: • Primer on Climate Science • Extreme Weather Events • Extreme Weather Events effects on Human Health • Changes in Hydrology & Waterborne Disease • Ozone, Oppressive Air Masses, and Degraded Air Quality • Effects of Climate Change on Noninfectious Waterborne Threats • Climate Change, Carbon Dioxide, and Plant Biology • Food Security in a Changing Climate • Climate Change and Population Mental Health • Surveillance of
 Climate-Sensitive Diseases • Climate and Its Impacts on Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases • Food Security, Safety, and Nutrition • Climate and Health Vulnerability • Climate Change Communication • Climate Change Adaptation • Health Co benefits of Climate 
Mitigation Strategies

We believe through such an effort, the AMS will have added a powerful dimension to its mission statement to develop and disseminate information and education on the changes to atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the health impact on the constituents that it serves.

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