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  • Climate change conference to address potential impacts

    Aug 12, 2013 | Read More News
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    If you think it’s hot here now… The desert Southwest is expected to be one of the regions that are most Nonevulnerable to the effects of climate change.

    If you think we’re immune because we’re more adapted to heat, know to stay hydrated and have air conditioning or swamp coolers, imagine how we would fare in a brown-out or a black-out brought on by the strain of a climate change-aggravated hot spell.

    You can wait to find out or you could get prepared by attending the Climate Smart Southwest: Ready or Hot conference, running the evening of Friday, Sept. 20 (7-8 PM) at the Unisource Building and Saturday, September 21 (7:30 AM to 5:30 PM) at the Tucson Convention Center and hosted by the Arizona Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

    Registration is open and seating is limited.

     “Citizens are beginning to move beyond simply talking about climate change,” said Barbara Warren, the chapter’s president. “They are responding to the challenge to actively prepare for it, and the goal of this conference is to tap into that energy. Tucson doesn’t have to be the next climate disaster, as long as we identify steps we can take now to protect ourselves.”

    The conference, which includes speakers, a panel discussion and workshops for citizens to become more engaged in potential solutions, is co-sponsored by roughly 40 organizations, including Pima County and the Pima County Health Department.

    Dr. Heidi Brown, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, said climate change could increase the prevalence here of diseases caused by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and rodents.

    Brown, who is one of five speakers at the conference, said that longer freeze-free seasons could change the range of disease-carrying pests and the intensity of mosquito-borne diseases but that predicting precise changes is extremely difficult because of the complex ways climate influences insects and pathogens.

    Heat-related illnesses could increase, Brown said, given that climate models indicate heat waves will be more humid, more frequent, more intense and longer. And the heat will persist later into the evenings as well. That will impact frail individuals, but also the economically disadvantaged, Brown said, because of reduced access to medical care and limited resources.

    Other impacts of climate change include, of course, more drought and forest fires, but also threats to water security.

    “It is important that we break down barriers to community action and build consensus among experts in public health, climate and education about the best steps to take for the future,” said Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, whose office is co-sponsoring the conference.

    Conference speakers will discuss not only the state of world climate change, as well as Southwestern regional impacts, but cross-cultural and border issues. Workshops include sessions on mental well-being in relation to climate change, as well as food security, education in schools, and building awareness in vulnerable communities.

    The cost of the seminar is $35, with a student admission available for $15. The price includes a free buffet lunch and free parking at the Tucson Convention Center. Scholarships are available for those with financial need. For more information, please visit www.psr.org/azclimate.