Understanding of the Interactions Between Climatic Factors and Human Animal and Plant Systems Can Increase Adaptive Capacity

One of the themes running across the chapters is the promise of using understanding of the interactions between climate factors and human, animal, and plant systems to design systems to provide advance warning of potentially adverse weather conditions using seasonal and short-range forecasts. The initial focus has been on understanding weather conditions that can lead to a significant change in response, particularly for human health. For example, Kalkstein and Sheridan, and Jendritzky and de Dear review some of the research aimed to better understand the thresholds for determining when high ambient temperatures lead to adverse health outcomes. Different approaches have been used that aim to describe when humans go from being uncomfortable in hot weather to when they are at risk for heat stress or a heat-related illness. This information has been used to design heatwave early warning systems worldwide. The weather conditions that put humans at risk vary geographically and are driven by factors contextual to a population (i.e. housing stock, cultural clothing and behavioral preferences, etc.). Therefore, significant local knowledge is needed to help identify thresholds for the identification of a heatwave and the issuance of warnings and advisories (i.e. calling a heatwave).

Over the past decade, as approaches to identifying thresholds for action have become more standard, there is increasing interest in understanding how to effectively intervene once a heatwave warning is declared. Although there is evidence that heatwave early warning systems save lives, there is limited understanding of which components are critical to a system's success. As demonstrated in innumerable public health campaigns, changing people's behavior is difficult. A challenge for biometeor-ologists is to establish the extent to which behavioral change is needed to ensure maximum effectiveness of a policy that has been informed by biometeorological research. For example, research is needed on effective approaches for motivating those most at risk during a heat wave, including adults over the age of 65, diabetics, and people taking certain drugs, to change their behavior. Surveys suggest that approximately half of those at increased risk do not alter their behavior during a heatwave, even when they know what actions should be taken (Kalkstein and Sheridan). Further, Stewart in this volume, in describing the psychological constraints to effective response to warnings, quotes Mileti (1999): "people typically are unaware of the hazards they face, underestimate those of which they are aware, overestimate their ability to cope when disaster strikes, often blame others for their losses, underutilize pre-impact hazard strategies, and rely heavily on emergency relief when the need arises." Clearly establishing the barriers to advice and policy uptake is an area in which further collaboration between biometeorologists, psychologists, public health professionals, and social scientists would prove valuable; no one discipline has the training and expertise to identify, implement, and evaluate possible approaches.

In another example, Ebi reviewed recent advances in malaria early warning systems using seasonal forecasts and remotely sensed variables. A significant advantage of these systems is that they can provide several months lead time of a pending epidemic, allowing local authorities to ensure there are sufficient drugs and insecticide treated bednets, and to initiate indoor residual spraying programs either before or at the start of a potential epidemic. However, malaria early warning systems have not been in place long enough for evaluation of their efficacy over time. Constraints to their wider implementation include the limited skill of seasonal forecast models in some regions, particularly where there is significant variability over relatively small spatial scales in the microclimates that influence malaria transmission. Anomalous years may be difficult to forecast, with the result that the early warning system may miss conditions conducive to a malaria epidemic. Even if malaria early warning systems are highly predictive of a pending epidemic, there are significant constraints in many malarious regions in the ability of local health care systems to identify that an epidemic has started and to quickly implement appropriate actions. Increasing local capacity will be necessary to ensure full utilization of early warnings.

Survival Treasure

Survival Treasure

This is a collection of 3 guides all about survival. Within this collection you find the following titles: Outdoor Survival Skills, Survival Basics and The Wilderness Survival Guide.

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