Dr. Jonathan Patz attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last month where he chaired a session on energy and health for the World Health Organization side-conference during the venue.
Patz, who is director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, will speak about his experience Friday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Northland College Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. This event, cosponsored by the Chequamegon Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, is free and open to the public.
“I am confident that we are finally grappling with the challenge of climate change in a serious way, especially evidenced by the largest number of heads of state — 150 — ever to assemble in human history,” he said of the conference. “Before the Paris meeting had even begun, 183 countries sent in commitments to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”
Patz has authored over eighty peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change and public health. He recently received the Homer Calver Award from the American Public Health Association (APHA) for his pioneering research and work.
In the early 1990s, Patz was a rare voice. He saw climate change as a linchpin preventive medicine issue that included energy policy, pollution, population growth and multi-pathway risks to health. “It was barely investigated back then, so I chased it with that much more fervor,” he said.
In 1994, Patz organized the first-ever panel session on climate change for the APHA and later wrote the association’s first policy resolution on the threat climate change poses for health.
Now, his concerns are front-page news as international leaders from President Obama to Pope Francis recognize the devastating effects of climate change on health and nearly all world governments met in December for the United Nations’ Conference of Parties to negotiate a binding commitment to avert climate change, including actions to protect human health.
Patz would go on to organize the first climate change and health briefing for then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner. He was a lead author for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 15 years and contributed to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He’s testified before both Houses of Congress and co-chaired the health panel of the first congressionally mandated U.S. National Assessment on Climate Variability and Change.
Patz co-edited the recently released comprehensive text on climate change and public health.
“Climate change poses enormous risks to our health, from heat waves and floods, to food security, infectious diseases and social disruption,” Patz says. Yet, he adds, “Climate change policy toward a clean energy society could be the greatest public health opportunity we’ve had in more than a century — especially in the face of accelerating rates of chronic diseases worldwide.”