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Hrynkow Represents NIEHS at AAAS Forum

By Eddy Ball
January 2009

Photo of Associate Director Sharon Hrynkow, Ph.D.
NIEHS Associate Director Sharon Hrynkow (Photo courtesy of AAAS)

Photo of Smith, Detchnon, Corvalán, and Greenbaum
At mid-session, the panel included, left to right, Smith, Detchon, Corvalán and Greenbaum. Dobson, who was delayed, offered his perspective as the final speaker of the session. (Photo courtesy of AAAS)

Continuing her work in forging partnerships and cross-disciplinary collaborations in global environmental health, NIEHS Associate Director Sharon Hrynkow, Ph.D., organized and chaired a panel discussion on the linked issues of climate, energy and health at the 2009 AAAS Forum on Science Technology and Policy. Featuring experts in global health and Obama administration policy leaders, the meeting was held April 30-May 1 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.

The 34th annual forum brought together over 600 scientists, policy makers and students, plus more than two dozen journalists, for two days of discussions and lectures ( Exit NIEHS on the nexus of science and public policy. One goal of the meeting was to shine light on key science issues under debate in the global policy arena as the U.S. prepares for the UN Climate Change Conference ( Exit NIEHS in Copenhagen this December. Hrynkow, who also serves as chair of the AAAS Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy, said she was pleased to have an opportunity to lead a discussion on what she called the "linked agenda" of climate change, energy strategies and health issues, and the related policy implications.

"Addressing climate change requires concurrent thinking across multiple scientific disciplines," Hrynkow commented in her opening remarks. "Health and climate, both directly and indirectly, are intricately linked."

Speakers in Hrynkow's session explored the direct and indirect effects of the changing climate on human health and adaptive strategies for minimizing the consequences. Panelists included Kirk R. Smith, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, Carlos Corvalán, Ph.D., of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Daniel Greenbaum, of the Health Effects Institute, Reid Detchon of the UN Foundation and Energy Future Coalition, and Andrew Dobson, Ph.D., of Princeton University.

Smith ( Exit NIEHS, who was the first speaker at the session, focused on the co-benefits of reducing harmful gases and pollutants, encouraging more equitable levels of red meat consumption and promoting reproductive health as part of a broader strategy to tackle climate change. He was followed by CorvalÁn ( Exit NIEHS, who underscored the disproportionate impact of climate-change sensitive diseases on children and described the World Health Organization and PAHO commitments to tackling climate change through strengthening health systems, supporting local research and building capacity for health professionals.

Pointing to mounting evidence linking ozone to respiratory illness and premature mortality, Greenbaum ( Exit NIEHS warned that climate change would lead to warmer temperatures that favor the creation of ozone. In his remarks, Detchon ( Exit NIEHS called for expanded use of electric cars and cleaner alternatives to oil that do not require the addition of aromatics to boost octane. Closing out the session, Dobson (  Download Adobe Reader (48 KB) described the anticipated effects of climate change on infectious disease transmission patterns and lamented the shortage of experts on the effects of climate change on human health.

The keynote talk ( Exit NIEHS at the forum was presented by John Holdren, Ph.D., former president of AAAS, who now serves as assistant to the President for science and technology and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren underscored President Obama's commitment to science and assured his listeners that "science and technology is clearly back in the United States." Holdren also told the audience, "The voices of the climate science community are being heard." Other major speakers were MIT President Susan Hockfield, Ph.D., and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Ph.D., each of whom underscored the importance of multi-disciplinary scientific approaches in order to protect human health and the environment.

The AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy is regarded as the premier event of its kind in the United States, focusing on federal budget and research and development issues, public- and private-sector research, education, innovation, and other high-profile domestic and international science and technology issues.

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