HEAT EXPOSURE AS A HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE THREAT: a key issue in climate change impact assessments

Slides and audio available

Date: 17 June 2016
Time: 12.45 – 2pm
Venue: Curtis Room (LG9) Keppel Street

Speaker(s): Professor Tord Kjellstrom

Admission: Free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis

The latest IPCC assessments (2013 and 2014) of climate change indicated the likely trends of global temperature change, and the associated effects on human health and economic outputs. The “business as usual” worst case scenario meant a 4oC increase by the end of this century, while the voluntary offers from the 195 countries who signed up in Paris in December 2015 for global climate change action would lead to 2.7 oC increase. The agreed Paris statement says that the increase should be less than 2oC, and ideally at 1.5 oC, which means that further policy development and preventive actions will be needed in most countries. The assessments of the impacts are far from complete and additional research and analysis will be needed. A key issue is the spatial variability of the impacts which already indicates that parts of Australia will be particularly affected while the worst human impacts of increasing heat are likely in tropical areas.

Increased heat stress will be a major problem globally and a better understanding of the threats to health and human performance is of great importance. The seminar will present an overview of the threats as well as specific examples. Existing incomplete analysis indicates that the physiological effects of heat stress may be one of the most dominant health and social impacts. A full understanding of this threat to human society and how to deal with it requires input from climatology, thermal ergonomics, occupational health, social sciences, economics, technical sciences and sustainability policy analysis. Some new cooperative research efforts along these lines have started, but more can be done.

The ongoing Hothaps program (see www.ClimateCHIP.org) is a low budget effort to start bringing relevant data together and to produce initial quantitative estimates of heat stress impacts on human society. The aims of the seminar is to encourage and inspire researchers to make new efforts in this inter-disciplinary research field.

Information about speaker(s):

Tord Kjellstrom a Doctor of the Science of Medicine (1977), a Master of Mechanical Engineering (1967) and a Bachelor of Medicine (1966) from the Karolinska Institute and Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Since 1976 he has been resident in New Zealand and am now a citizen both of New Zealand and Sweden. His current affiliations are: Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Technology Research and Innovation, Limassol, Cyprus; Director, Health and Environment International Trust (HEIT), Mapua, Nelson, New Zealand; Hon Professor, University College London, Inst for Global Health, United Kingdom. In recent years he has also been affiliated as a Professor at Australian National University, Lund University and Umea University (Sweden). He worked for 12 years at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva (1985-1997) and had a break in 1991-1992 as Professor of Occupational Health at the University of Sydney.

He has been a researcher and academic teacher, primarily in the environmental and occupational epidemiology fields, initially carrying out epidemiological studies of the effects of cadmium, lead, methyl-mercury, asbestos and children’s traffic accidents. At WHO he developed scientific review work as well as training and research promotion in environmental health and chemical safety, and became Director of an Office with responsibility for developing analysis and global guidance on climate change and health and other emerging topics. From 1998, in New Zealand, he continued research on health effects of air pollution, climate change, road transport, urban health and globalisation as well as the health links to sustainable development. The research work has produced more than 400 publications (more than 80 publications on climate, health and productivity issues between 2000 and 2015).In recent years he has carried out work for the WHO on Climate change and health, Urban health and Health equity. Currently he is expanding the program of studies on “High Occupational Temperature Health and Productivity Suppression (Hothaps)” at global level to document impacts of Climate change on Occupational Health and Productivity.

Contact: globalncd@lshtm.ac.uk