How Might Solving the Global Climate Crisis Also Create the Largest Human Health Benefit of the Century?

For June 19, 2019                              Please share with your friends & neighbors 

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Extension specialists on occasion get phone calls of urgent requests on short notice. These often result in our finest minutes.  My favorite request was an invitation to give a 15 minute speech on the following day to a state convention of public health officials.  Knowing nearly nothing about public health, I was delighted to do so.

I opened by doing what all the greats advise:  commiserate with your audience.  Being a plant pathologist, this was not hard for me to do with public health professionals.

After all, the life work of both professions focuses on populations and environments; we both emphasize health more than sickness; our bulwarks are prevention and early detection and rapid response.   Therefore, I began by noting in my best Sardonic accent that the only TV show that ever had better ratings than “ER” was the hit series “PHO: Public Health Office.”   Two decades have not dimmed the memories of the warm reception given to that opening gambit.

Now, I have nothing against physicians; I am all for them. My Uncle Don was a doctor, a pediatrician, and he delivered three generations of babies in Dixon IL.  Doctors have the advantage of serving, and in many cases saving, lives one person, one face, one name at a time.  Specific people can say, “Doctor Don saved my life.”  And that’s true.  One of those specific people was me.

But it’s also true that public health people save lives, and probably at least as many if not more lives than most physicians.  Yet one never knows for sure which lives—which names, which faces—have been spared & extended by clean water, cleaner air, good nutrition, vaccines, exercise routines and other prevention schemes.

In the coming decade, it seems public health has an unexpected opportunity to extend its astonishing beneficence, this time by calculating the tolls we will suffer and by estimating the bills we will have to pay for the competing choices we make in response to climate change.

This week (June 19) Jonathan Patz of the School of Medicine & Public Health and of the Global Health Institute returns to WN@TL to ask, “How Might Solving the Global Climate Crisis Create the Largest Health Benefit of the Century?”

Here’s how he describes his talk:

“Global Climate Change poses multiple severe risks to our health, and yet, the low carbon economy needed to solve today’s climate crisis will offer enormous health benefits, particularly in the area of chronic diseases. In this presentation, health risks from climate change will be summarized, as well as studies documenting the potential health gains emerging from across the energy, food, and transportation sectors.

About the Speaker:

Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, is Professor & John P. Holton Chair in Health and the Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also directs the Global Health Institute. Patz co-chaired the health expert panel of the first Congressionally mandated US National Assessment on Climate Change and was a convening lead author for the international Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

For 14 years, Patz was a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994, Dr. Patz convened the first-ever session on climate change for the American Public Health Association (APHA) and authored the organization’s first policy resolution on climate change in 1995. In 1997, he organized the first climate change/health briefing to an EPA administrator (Carol Browner) and has been invited to brief both houses of Congress and serve on scientific committees of the National Academy of Sciences.

From 2006 to 2010, Patz served as Founding President of the International Association for Ecology and Health. Professor Patz received an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellows Award in 2005, and a UW-Madison Romnes Faculty Fellow award in 2009. He shared the Zayed International Prize for the Environment in 2006, won a Fulbright Scholar award in 2014, recieved APHA’s Homer Calver Award for environmental health leadership in 2015, and the 2017 Alumni Special Recognition award from Case Western School of Medicine.

He’s written nearly 100 peer-reviewed papers plus multiple reports, two co-edited textbooks and an encyclopedia on global environmental health.

Explore more at:  (TEDx Talk)


Next week (June 26) Derrick Herndon of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies will be here to take us on a road trip to Kansas and parts beyond as he unfolds “The Evolution of Storm Chasing.”

As a yang to Derrick’s yin, I will speak on A Brief History of Storm Fleeing.


I am also delighted to note that June 19 is the Wednesday closest to the solstice, and as is our happy custom, after the Q&A this Wednesday we will adjourn to the Terrace for Darn-Near-the-Solstice Beers.

I will buy.

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Thanks again!

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension


UW-Madison:  5.8 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university.

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round.