People in the audience stood up and encouraged others to become
involved in campaigns focusing on climate change when Robert
Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank, said, “The climate
issue is nonexistent in the U.S.” He added that he was
disgusted with the lack of attention the media pay to the
Watson was a speaker at the 3rd Isadore A. Bernstein Symposium,
held this weekend at the School of Public Health and School of
Natural Resources and Environment. The University community
gathered Friday to hear distinguished speakers in the areas of
public health and climate change. The Department of Environmental
Health Sciences organized the symposium.
Watson spoke first regarding the politics and science of climate
change. He stressed the need to look at science and policy together
as one interconnected system. “A sustainable Earth is the
foundation for a good economy,” Watson said.
He continued by showing charts and graphs that illustrated
changes in greenhouse gases and temperature. “Literally every
part of the Earth warmed in the last 25 years,” he said.
These changes, Watson added, lead to more extreme weather events,
which affect certain regions more than others.
Watson said climate change exacerbates the World Bank’s
main objective to meet the needs of the poor. He added that the
problem of controlling the impacts of climate change can lead a
developed country to tell a less developed country not to exploit
resources and to instead focus on climate issues, possibly
hampering the developing country’s economic growth.
Jonathan Patz, environmental health resources professor at Johns
Hopkins University, examined the relationship between health and
climate change hotspots. What people need to realize, Patz said,
was that slight changes in temperature can impact human health.
“Heat kills people,” he said, referring to death from
heat stroke. Patz added that higher temperatures could also
increase the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as those carried
Patz linked Watson’s comment about the increase in extreme
weather events to an increase in diseases. He said heavy rainfall
preceded more than half of the water-borne diseases in the United
Concluding his speech, Patz said, “We absolutely need to
advocate science, to get it out there to communicate.”
Rackham student Paul Hanna agreed with Patz’s remark,
saying, “Both speakers spoke with an assuredness about how
much climate change is a problem. I am surprised about it not being
discussed in the current political climate.”
On Saturday a panel discussion titled “What is being done
to achieve climate justice?” was held, followed by
presentations and case studies by faculty from universities across
the nation and world.
Yesterday another panel discussion was held, followed by
workshops, a discussion titled “Where do we go from
here?” and closing remarks by Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous
Among the conference’s sponsors were the SNRE, the
Environmental Justice Initiative and the Department of