Research hub focuses U of A expertise on how climate change affects health

First interdisciplinary group of its kind in Canada will create more opportunities for collaborative research, learning and advocacy.

EDMONTON — The University of Alberta has launched a new research hub to investigate, explain and help mitigate the impact of climate change on human health.

The Climate Change and Health Hub is the first of its kind in Canada, pulling together more than 30 researchers from across faculties in the health sciences, natural and applied sciences, social sciences and humanities.

“When people think about climate change, they think of it as an environmental issue but not always as a health issue,” says the new network’s leader, Sherilee Harper, a Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and Health and professor in the School of Public Health. “One thing the hub will do is bring attention to that.”

The World Health Organization reports that climate change is “directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.”

It also estimates that the health of millions of people around the world has already been impacted by climate change.

“Think about last summer in Alberta and elsewhere, how we had to stay inside because of the air quality. We know breathing in that smoky air is really unhealthy — comparable to smoking.”

Processing climate change can also have serious mental-health consequences, resulting in what some now call “eco-anxiety” or “eco-grief” as people come to terms with its devastation around the world.

Part of the hub’s mandate will be to “advocate for bold climate change action from local to global scales,” says Harper, while constantly measuring the efficacy of research and action towards “meaningful change.” She notes U.S. studies have shown that the best way to inspire people to take action on climate change is through a health lens. 

The new hub aims to make the intersection of climate change and health an educational priority at the U of A, offering students learning and research opportunities in addition to fostering collaboration among researchers, other universities, practitioners and policymakers.

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To speak with Sherilee Harper about the hub, please contact:

Ross Neitz, UAlberta media strategist | 780-297-8354