The Environment & Global Health: An Interview with UN IPCC Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Patz - Part 1
Today, world-renowned scholar and researcher on the environmental and health effects of climate change, Dr. Jonathan Patz, will share with us the impact of global warming on humanity, as well as how to deal with the coming crisis.
Dr. Patz holds numerous academic posts and is involved in several U.S. and international organizations.
As Professor of Environmental Studies and Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Patz directs a university-wide initiative on global environmental health.
He is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an affiliate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research(NCAR).
Dr. Patz's non-academic activities include co-chairing the Health Expert Panel of the US National Assessment on Climate Variability and Change, and being a lead author of climate change reports for the United Nations/
World Bank Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, United Nations Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change (IPCC), and World Health Organization (WHO).
He has written over 75 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the environmental and health effects of global warming.
From 1996 to 2000, Dr. Patz was principal researcher for the largest US multi-institutional study on climate change health risks.He has briefed the US Congress, the White House and federal-agency leaders
on environmental health matters.His areas of research include the effects of climate change on air pollution,
heat waves and the relationship between deforestation and resurgent diseases in the Amazon.
In 2007, Dr. Patz became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate along with his fellow IPCCreport authors and former US Vice President Al Gore for their workon climate change.
Dr. Patz shares his research and knowledge in an interview with Supreme Master Televisionon the global implications on human health as a result of the changing climate.
Dr. Patz: Many people ask, "Is global warming real?"and I'm not a climatologistbut being on the IPCC, I've worked actually for about 15 yearswith climatologists and we know that climateis always changing.
Dr. Patz:As the famous naturalist John Muir said,"As everythingis interconnected, and as we pull on one thing,we find it connected to everything in the universe."And in the case ofclimate change and health effects,
it's similar to that.
HOST: For thousands of years before the Industrial Age,the greenhouse gas concentration in Earth's atmospheremaintained a relatively stable level.However, our biosphere's fragile balance is being compromised by human'scarbon and methane intensive activities.
Dr. Patz: Climatologists tell us that this is an urgent problem,that if we don't really de-carbonize our energy systems in the next ten years, the rate of warming and the level of temperaturethat we are going to reach could be quite significant.The range that they are talking about in the next 90 years is somewhere between
1.5 and 6 degrees centigrade.
As a global average, that's a huge amount.The Ice Ages, we were only two degrees colder, two degrees centigradecolder than we are today.So now we are talking about warming rapidly within the next century;
1.5 to 6 degreescentigrade as a global average increase is unprecedented.
HOST: Regarding the possible consequences of such rapid global warming,the United Nations 2007
IPCC report provides various projections. Dr. Patz, however,believes the real situation could be much more serious than the estimatespresent in the report.
Dr. Patz: What the climatologists are saying in the IPCC report is that the Arcticis melting rapidly and of course that endangers the polar bear.Of course, the polar bear in my view, the polar bear is, that's
an important species to recognize that species is now threatened.
But now from my point of view, they are not the only species that should be worried.Our own species I think we should be worried.The climatologists conducting the IPCC, and this is acrosshundreds of climatologists from really the best climate institutesaround the world, it's a consensus document.
And consensus, by that I mean a large majority of these climatologistshave agreed to the conclusions of the IPCC, and then this goesthrough multiple rounds of peer review and governmental review.And by that way, it's called a consensus document.To get to a consensus and to get to the IPCC findings, it's avery conservative report.
So for example, the sea-level rise projected of about half a meterof sea level rise in the next hundred years is only looking atthermal expansion of the oceans.As the oceans warm salt water expands, so that amount of warming,that amount of sea level rise is mostly just from thermal expansion.Not in the number is the potential for more sudden and more disastrous typesof sea level rise.
HOST:With sea level rising and the emergence of more weather extremes,it can be expected that many people's livelihoods will face serious threats.
Dr. Patz: There are different places around the world that will experience different threats, different vulnerabilities.So for example, with sea level rise, low-lying deltaslike Bangladesh, most of the country of Bangladesh is on this low-lying delta, much of that country will be underwater.Deltas along China, the China coast, are at high risk of being flooded.
In the western United States, one of the biggest threats therewill be diminishing snow pack and availability of water.And many parts of mid-continental regions will suffer from droughts.
HOST: According to scientific studies, the issue of global warming has become extremely pressing for humankind.Climatologists around the world are urging for immediate actionsto curb global warming.
Dr. Patz: We need to really quickly reduce our energy demands,so it sends a signal to the rest of the world
that if we can do it and we take the leadership,that they can do it as well.We're at the turning point where the awareness is very high about the risk of global warming and we need to act on that.And we need to act at the personal level, the local level,the city level, and the national level and the international level.
Dr. Patz: Our transportation choices, greening our homes, greening our workplace,eating less meat in the diet, these are all things thatthe individual can do.
Communities can demand safe routes to schools and vote for representatives thatare responsible as far as long-term environmental and health issues.And at the national level, we really need to recognize that this is
an international problem, that it really is a global issue,that we have to engage in meaningful international negotiations.
HOST: When Planet Earth:Our Loving Home returns, Dr. Jonathan Patz further discuss ways to reduce
our ecological footprint.Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.
HOST: Today on Planet Earth:Our Loving Home, we feature an interview with renownedenvironmental public health expert, Dr. Jonathan Patz.Dr. Patz is a renowned professor at the UniversityWisconsin-Madison and has contributed tofour IPCC reports on climate change from 1995 to 2007as a lead author.
Currently, an important part of his research isworking with scientists in various fields such asclimatology, ecology, landscape ecology and hydrologyto examine global environmental health.
Dr. Patz: In tackling the global warming problem, there are several issues.One is, of course, burning fossil fuels. We need more efficient energy systems, we need to get away from burning coal, burning oil,we need sustainable energy.But there is another issue, which is land use.And deforestation actually contributes about a quarterof the problem.
When you cut down forests and the carbon is locked up in those trees, cutting down forests ends up in greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for about 20-25% of the global warming issue.
I wouldn't want to be over-reliant on technology.I mean, the first thing we need to do is conserve energy and
that's not technology.That's reducing water consumption. It takes a lot of carbonand energy to actually purify a gallon of water for drinking water; so simply conserving water, conserving energy by home heating,
having insulating blinds on your windows, having solar thermal on your roof.
HOST: One major cause of deforestation is meat production.As an expert in public environmental health, Dr. Patz put great emphasis on the role of the vegetarian,meaning animal-free diet, in curbing global warming
and promoting public health.
Patz(m): The Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, report that came outshowed that a meat diet and raising livestock for meat consumption are extremely energy intensive.
It was a bit shocking how high it was at 18% of greenhouse gases.I would say that it is an issue that is quite important and weneed to grapple with it, that producing protein from livestock is extremely consumptive as far as water requirements, to produce the same amount of protein from meat compared to legumes;
I think it's on the order of seven or eight times more energy is required to produce that.
In other words, it is quite costly for natural resources and energy consumption to produce beef.So, as far as environmental responsibility,I would say that livestock has been shown to be quite energy intensive, water intensive and land intensive;converting forest into pasture land, we've changed much of our landscape.
In fact, agriculture alone has changed the landscape of the planet more than any other driver.So I would advocate getting off of the meat diet,that it really is not sustainable, and not only that,we know from the western diet that too much meat isnot good for you and the issue of heart diseaseand cancer.
Supreme Master TV(f):And diabetes.
Patz(m): And diabetes, yes, obesity, diabetes.And if we could reduce meat consumption,we could preserve the environment and also increase our personal health and reduce the risk of these chronic diseases.
HOST: When our climate is unbalanced, it affects many factors that would otherwise support a healthy ecosystem in sustaining life.
Dr. Patz: When we think about infectious diseases,for example, a majority of new, emerging human diseasesactually are zoonotic diseases.
In other words, these are diseases in wildlife that jump species,that affect our health. And as we change climate conditions, as we change natural habitat, biodiversity, we can actually havea higher risk of new disease emergence.
Let me give you one example: HIV/AIDS came from non-human primates.It's now been tracked down to bush-meat hunting in Africa, that this was a virus that was in non-human primates that hasjumped species because of human activity, by meat hunting.Measles, tuberculosis, these all came when we domesticated livestock.Those were in animals.They've jumped into humans.There are studies that estimate that 75% of new human diseases actually are coming from animals.
The environmental impact of developing bio-fuels is under much researchas more evidence is showing that the use and farming of certain crops for this fuel source is not sustainable.
There is deforestation right now at an alarming rate to support oil palm in Southeast Asia, especially I think in Indonesia, the demand for oil palm for biofuels, but oil palm is also for other food materials.This is why it's urgent that the value of intact forests and this idea of reducing emissions from keeping a natural rainforest is extremely important and urgent that we get this message out.And maybe we can reduce the number of oil-palm plantations.
Of course then in other regions of the world growing biofuels, there are good ways and bad ways.So, there was a recent study that came out showig that to produce biofuels,it could actually backfire, that if we pick the wrong biofuels, if we are looking at corn ethanol, which has a very poor energy in-energy out yield, think about the energy to grow the corn and the fertilizer, I think it's like one unit of energy in and you only get 1.2 out;
it's not worth it. And then you pollute the environment, more, and more fertilizer down in the Mississippi and then the Dead Zone and the Gulf of Mexico, that there are really some wrong ways to do biofuel.
But there are also some beneficial ways to do biofuels.
You want to make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease. So, we need to be very careful as we de-carbonize our energy and we get away from fossil fuels which we must do.Many areas, from preserving forests, to more renewable energy, to reduce meat diet, to greener and healthier cities, and improving transportation, on many fronts it's got to be that type of multi-pronged approach just to solve the problem.