Excerpt: The effects of climate change almost always have an element that harms human health, whether it’s heat waves, droughts, spreading disease, or other devastating events.
That’s why Secretary of State John Kerry stopped at Harvard Thursday to help launch a joint initiative between the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) that he called “important in so many different ways.” The effort is focused on the global health impacts of climate change, which can sometimes be overshadowed by more immediate concerns.
By focusing on health and climate change, organizers hope to provide a research-based understanding of the issues involved, to inform both policies and practice in the future. HGHI Director Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of International Health and a professor of medicine, said the spread of Zika is one example. Though the virus has been linked to climate change’s potential to spread disease, a rigorous examination of the evidence is necessary to determine if that’s truly the case, he said.
“We have to be scientifically thoughtful about this. If you start making connections where there are none, you will lose credibility,” Jha said. “We have to be thoughtful about … going only where the science and data allow us to go, but that said, the science and data allow us to go much further than I think we have made clear.”