2013 Presentations


Following two days of discussion at the October 29-30 Summit, the links below contain the INITIAL recommendations from each of the three work groups (coastal, urban, rural). THIS IS NOT A FINAL PRODUCT but rather an initial summary of the discussions. Please note that all of these ideas will be incorporated into the Summit’s final work product (a recommendation document) with additional input from the planning committee and Summit attendees. That process will take place the remainder of 2013 and into 2014. Any questions should be directed toward Martin Armes … martinarmes AT nc.rr.com.




Health Impacts of Climate Change in the United States: An Update

John Balbus, Senior Advisor for Public Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

The current draft US National Climate Assessment concludes that climate change has multiple impacts on human health and that some of those impacts are already occurring. This presentation will provide an overview of how climate change impacts the health and well-being of Americans, with an emphasis on regional and personal vulnerability, current federal health adaptation efforts, and potential health benefits that may accrue from reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Using the US National Climate Assessment as a starting point, the presentation will place the potential implications of climate change for human health in North Carolina in the context of impacts around the country.


National Perspective on Climate Change

Tim Watkins, Deputy National Program Director for Air, Climate, and Energy Research in Office of Research & Development, US Environmental Protection Agency

This presentation will provide an overview of National level activities and issues related to climate change, including a broad overview of the President’s Climate Action Plan and the United States Global Change Research Program’s (USGCRP) National Climate Assessment. The presentation will also include a discussion of anticipated climate change impacts and how these impacts are anticipated to vary regionally across the Nation. In addition, ongoing climate change adaptation and mitigation activities will be discussed, focusing on related examples at the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Finally, the concepts of sustainability and climate preparedness will also be briefly discussed as potential approaches to improve responses to climate change impacts.


Climate Change in North Carolina

Ken Kunkel, NC State University and National Climatic Data Center, NOAA Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites

In support of the development of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3) report, extensive analyses of historical trends and future projections have been undertaken for the United States. One focus of these analyses was on extreme climate conditions, including heavy rain, and extreme heat and cold. A perspective for North Carolina, derived from these national analyses, will be presented with an emphasis on those conditions linked to health.

There have been recent trends in North Carolina toward warmer conditions, particularly warm summer nights. There has also been a general trend in the eastern United States toward more extreme rain events. Confident projections of future conditions under selected scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions can be made for some conditions. Temperature-related conditions are all projected to shift toward more warmth, including more hot days and hot nights and fewer cold days and nights. Precipitation is projected to increase and this includes an increase in the number of the heaviest events. Projected changes in extreme storms are less certain, including the number of tornadoes and hurricanes. However, the intensity of the strongest hurricanes is projected to increase.

Climate Ready North Carolina Program

Lauren Thie, Epidemiologist, North Carolina Division of Public Health

The Climate Ready North Carolina Program is located in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and assesses the state’s vulnerability to climate hazards. The Program focuses on heat-related illness, water-borne disease, asthma and respiratory disease, and extreme weather-related injuries. The Program uses Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to create appropriate programming and evaluate the effectiveness of public health practices.

Reframing Climate Change and Public Health: Why Science Needs Social Science to Communicate About Climate Change and Human Health

Eric Lindland, Senior Researcher, FrameWorks Institute

This presentation provides a brief introduction to the importance of framing in communications and why communicators must be strategic about their framing choices. It also introduces the importance of cultural models for strategic framing – those often tacit assumptions that structure how members of the public understand a topic and interpret and make meaning of scientific, advocacy, and policy communications. It then describes the dominant cultural models employed by Americans to think about climate change, human health, and the relationship between the two, and suggests a series of challenges that these models represent to efforts to move climate change policy forward. Finally, it concludes with a set of recommendations from our research for how to better frame the topic and help members of the public recognize how and why climate change represents such a critical challenge and what should be done to address it.


Harmonizing Environmental and Health Data in North Carolina

Kim Lyerly, George Barth Geller Professor in Cancer Research, Professor of Surgery, Duke University
Julia Kravchenko, Research Scientist, Duke University Medical Center

The Environmental Data Sharing Workgroup defined the present state of environmental and public health data, based upon the recommendations of the 2010 Environmental Health Summit. The group proposed ways to implement these recommendations, including making better use of the opportunity by creating links among environmental and health databases maintained by various agencies and organizations throughout North Carolina, as well as establishing projects and programs to link data sets. We review examples of these recommendations related to heat waves, air quality and health outcomes, and suggest additional opportunities to build new connections among disparate agencies in North Carolina with roles in environmental protection and public health.



NIEHS: Disaster Response Training Update

Chip Hughes, Program Director Worker Education and Training Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Disaster response and climate preparedness have come together as key priorities as our nation has learned how to cope with catastrophic weather events. The education and training of emergency responders and other volunteers has become a national priority as local coastal communities begin to create the expertise for building resilience and adaptation in the face of life threatening environmental challenges. NIEHS, based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, has been a public health leader in responding to catastrophic weather events like Western wild fires, Midwest floods, California earthquakes and Gulf Coast hurricanes. Preparation and education of community responders has been a critical element in assuring a robust community response and the creation of a quick community recovery capacity. The presentation will review key efforts to incorporate environmental public health principles into preparing for severe climate events.


Plymouth, North Carolina and Coastal America

Brian Roth, Mayor, Town of Plymouth, NC

Water level rise can cause failures of sewer and water system infrastructure. Those failures then lead to public health risks. An increase in sea level can degrade freshwater aquifers and permanently submerge productive farm and timber lands as well. This short presentation will explore these and other community level vulnerabilities and associated health risks.


When “wicked challenges” abound: Participatory processes to explore climate change impacts on North Carolina’s coast

Jessica Whitehead, Coastal Communities Hazards Adaptation Specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant, NC State University

Determining potential community-level adaptations to the potential impacts of climate change is a “wicked challenges” characterized by high complexities and systematic uncertainties. Especially in the health sector, the best available climate science may not match the resolution perceived to be necessary for decision-making, and the local level sensitivities to and consequences of climate changes are both direct and indirect, making it difficult to determine appropriate adaptations. One tool that may help scope out local level understanding of potential impacts and actions despite these systematic challenges is the Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Scenarios (VCAPS) process. To date VCAPS has been used to explore hazard mitigation and climate adaptation in 11 coastal communities, including communities in North Carolina. VCAPS is a facilitated participatory process based in the causal structure of hazards and vulnerability assessment, the purpose of which is to assist communities in diagramming the potential outcomes and consequences of climate stressors on aspects of municipal management. Real time projection of a diagram documenting the group conversation assists community members with discussion of potential adaptation and response options that public and private entities may implement, while also facilitating consideration of positive outcomes as well as potential negative consequences of interventions. Participants in VCAPS communities report that this robust yet flexible process has been valuable in synthesizing expert and local knowledge, promoting systems thinking and learning, and facilitating governance through the discussion of adaptive actions. This presentation will include an example from Plymouth, NC, highlighting potential health consequences at the local level about which local decision-makers expressed concern.


North Carolina Coastal Atlas: Empowering Decisions for Public Health

Michelle Covi, NC Coastal Atlas Outreach Coordinator, East Carolina University

East Carolina University is collaborating with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management and other partners to develop the North Carolina Coastal Atlas (http://www.nccoastalatlas.org), a web-based mapping and investigation platform that provides both static and interactive maps and related data for exploration and analysis. The Atlas combines physical, ecological and human use data to support education, management and decision-making. This presentation will highlight thematic maps useful for assessing climate change impacts on human health and explore ways additional datasets can be incorporated into the atlas. Potential uses for public health researchers and practitioners may include identifying populations or health infrastructure at risk to climate change factors at the coast and to support decision-making to reduce vulnerability. Additionally, the atlas can be a tool for decision-making, communication and a way to engage stakeholders in an effort to build climate resilience coastal communities.



Climate Change and Health in North Carolina Urban Area

Jason West, Assistant Professor, Departmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina

Climate change can affect human health through several different mechanisms, and these impacts can be reduced through preparedness measures. To help guide our discussion, this presentation will discuss some of those mechanisms, with particular emphasis on how they might affect urban areas in North Carolina, including a discussion of heat stress, precipitation changes, storms, water infrastructure, and the effects of climate on air quality. I will conclude with a discussion of the co-benefits of greenhouse gas reductions for air quality and human health.


Public Health and Climate Change in North Carolina Urban Areas

June Blotnick, Executive Director, Clean Air Carolina

Urban areas are home to large numbers of residents considered to be especially vulnerable to the health impacts from air pollution and climate change. We will take a look at the numbers of at-risk residents in North Carolina’s cities and learn about several research studies related to asthma, pre-term birth and the stress of poverty which disproportionately affect urban areas. Transitioning to “resilient” communities through urban planning and redevelopment strategies will be discussed highlighting initiatives and policies being implemented in the Charlotte metro area.


Addressing Climate Change in Durham

Tobin Freid, Sustainability Manager, City of Durham and Durham County

Local governments can play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting their residents from the effects of climate change. This presentation will cover some of the ways the City of Durham and Durham County are addressing these issues at a local level. Topics include Durham’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan, collaboration with the EPA on pilot projects to develop better tools to help decision-makers understand the environmental and social costs and benefits of projects, and some particular projects Durham is implementing to reduce the effects of climate change in an urban setting.



Understanding Climate Vulnerability and Ecosystem-Based Adaptation to Climate Change

Laura Lengnick, Director, Sustainable Agriculture Program, Environmental Studies Department, Warren Wilson College

Vulnerability describes the degree to which a system (for example a farm, a community, or a region) is susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. Vulnerability has three component parts: exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Exposure describes the type and intensity of climate change effects likely to be experienced at a specific location. Sensitivity expresses the degree to which elements of the system are affected, either negatively or positively, by climate-related events. Adaptive capacity describes the ability of the system to moderate damages, to take advantage of new opportunities or to cope with the consequences of climate change. This way of thinking about potential climate change effects helps to put a focus on the two components of vulnerability that can be managed directly at the local level: sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Adaptive actions can be characterized along a continuum of intention and action – resistance, resilience and transformation – that describe successively greater change in the adaptive capacity of the system under management. Ecosystem-based adaptation strategies offer the potential to reduce sensitivities and increase the adaptive capacity of local communities by engaging the multiple benefits of agriculture to enhance ecological, social and economic resilience to climate change effects.


Supporting Climate Adaptation by Understanding Vulnerabilities

Chris Emrich, Research Assistant Professor, Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute, Department of Geography, University of South Carolina

The Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI®) 2006-10 measures the social vulnerability of United States counties and census tracts to environmental hazards. The index is a comparative metric that facilitates the examination of the differences in social vulnerability among counties. SoVI® is a valuable tool for policy makers and practitioners. It graphically illustrates the geographic variation in social vulnerability. It shows where there is uneven capacity for preparedness and response and where resources might be used most effectively to reduce the pre-existing vulnerability. SoVI® also is useful as an indicator in determining the differential recovery from disasters. Coupling SoVI® with geographical representations of possible climate impacts across space provides a baseline from which adaptation planning and resilience building can take place. The index synthesizes between 28-30 socioeconomic variables (depending on scale of inquiry), which the research literature suggests contribute to reduction in a community’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from hazards. Identifying intersectionalities between social vulnerability and potential climate impacts provides a first step for creating appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies.


Preterm birth and mortality during heat waves in urban and rural communities in Alabama

Julia Gohlke, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Our research program focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of how heat wave definition impacts the relationship between heat exposure and health, especially as a function of rurality. We compared relationships between different heat wave index (HI) definitions and preterm birth and non-accidental mortality across urban and rural areas in Alabama using a time-stratified case-crossover design. To determine exposure, ZIP code-level HIs were developed from the North American Land Data Assimilation System that incorporates in situ and satellite derived data. Our results indicate increased risk of PTB and NAD during heat waves across urban and rural areas, yet there is some evidence of heightened mortality risk in urban areas and heightened preterm birth risk in more rural areas. Based on our analysis, a relative, mean temperature only heat wave definition may be the most effective metric for heat wave warning systems in the Deep South.



NIH-Supported Research on Climate Change and Human Health

Caroline Dilworth, Health Scientist Administrator, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of Extramural Research and Training

The NIEHS Climate Change and Human Health program funds research aimed at understanding the health impacts of climate change and how strategies used to adapt to or lessen climate change might affect human health. The program also plays a key role in facilitating the collaboration and coordination of both the research program and other activities related to climate change taking place within NIEHS and across NIH and other federal agencies. This presentation will describe the current program, including the overall goals, ongoing research initiatives and highlights from currently-supported grantees.


Summit Supporters

Environmental Protection Agency

RTI International

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University

North Carolina State University

Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources

North Carolina Division of Public Health

MDB, Inc.

Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences

Fleishman Hillard International Communications

VisionPoint Marketing