AVOID 1: Health Impacts of Catastrophic Climate Change: Expert Workshop


AVOID 1: Health Impacts of Catastrophic Climate Change: Expert Workshop

August 2, 2011
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This report describes the results from the AVOID workshop on the impacts of catastrophic climate change on human health. Current methods of estimating future health impacts do not address the impacts of extreme events or weather disasters. Thus, for this workshop, narratives of low probability high impact extreme climate events were used to examine the possible impacts on population health. This method can be used to address events and impacts outside recent experience. The narratives used in the workshop also included discussions of complexity and interactions among the multiple causes and drivers.

Tipping points in social systems were described under climate exposures (global mean temperature changes) well below the projected thresholds for tipping points in geophysical systems (due to the high level of vulnerability in many social systems). It was also seen that the focus on tipping points can distract attention from significant but incremental increases in the burden of disease/loss of welfare.

Population health is an important metric about which the public and decision-makers care. More information on the population health effects of climate change is needed to support decision making on climate policy (adaptation and mitigation). In order for new research methods to be developed (such as the narrative approach), there is need for improvements in the research environment, including stakeholder engagement and interdisciplinarity.