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Climate Change and Health

by Gwen Griffith, DVM, MS

CONNECTIONS
The AVE Newsletter
Vol. 3, No. 4 Spring, 1998


The forces of climate on our planet are connected to the health of the plants and animals that live here. World leaders are taking notice of this issue, as noted with the recent world summit on climate change held in Kyoto, Japan. The consensus of the world's leading scientists presented at the meetings is that climate change is occurring at an accelerated rate brought about by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, trapping heat and changing our climate patterns on global scale. A very few might still argue this change could be a natural phenomenon, rather than human induced, but none would disagree that it is time we paid attention to changing climate patterns and prepare to deal with their consequences.

Findings from the Kyoto summit include information on impacts on wildlife, animal health and human health. No longer is heat stress the only topic discussed. Now, stresses to ecosystems, wildlife and domestic animals are being recognized as potential hazards as climate change unfolds. Here are just a few examples of the warning signals nature is sending out:

As caretakers to the animal kingdom, veterinarians need to be aware that climate change can bring about changes in patterns of infectious disease, parasites, vector-borne diseases, competitor species and ecological disruptions. We need to be alert to recognize these patterns as they emerge and do our part to decrease the human component of global warming with our own energy efficiency measures.

Carbon dioxide gas, the most potent greenhouse gas, is released through burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, oil, coal and natural gas. Right now the U.S. releases about 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person per year. Although our world leaders still disagree on how to go about our individual contributions to this problem: here are some simple steps you can take to do your part at home and in your clinic. Pick one simple step each month for the next year and see how much you can help and save money at the same time!


Appliances

  1. Run the dishwasher, washing machine or dryer only with a full load.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 200 pounds per year
  2. Wash clothes in warm water or cold water only, not hot.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 500 pounds per year (for 2 loads per week)
  3. Turn down your water heater thermostat (120 degrees is hot enough).
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 500 pounds per year for each 10 degree reduction
  4. Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 1000 pounds per year
  5. Don't overheat or overcool rooms. Adjust thermostat lower in winter, higher in summer.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 500 pounds per year for each 2 degree adjustment
  6. Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Clean filters save 5% of energy used.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 175 pounds per year
  7. When you replace appliances, choose the most energy efficient model available.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 3000 pounds per year per refrigerator replaced

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  8. Reduce waste materials, buy minimally packaged goods, choose reusable products over disposable ones and recycle.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 1000 pounds per year if you cut your waste by 25%
  9. Make sure your car air conditioner, coolant, tires and oil are recycled when serviced.
    Equivalent carbon dioxide reduction: thousands of pounds
  10. Recycle materials in the workplace and community.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 4 pounds per every pound of office paper recycled

    Getting Around

  11. Whenever possible, walk, bike, carpool or use mass transit.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 20 pounds for every gallon of gasoline saved
  12. When you buy a car, choose one with good gas mileage.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: 2500 pounds per year for each 10 mpg improvement

    Home/Clinic Improvements

  13. Insulate your walls and ceilings, this can save about 25% on heating/cooling bills.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 2000 pounds per year
  14. When replacing windows, install the best energy-saving models.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 10,000 pounds per year
  15. Plant trees next to your buildings and paint it a light color in warm climates, or dark in cold climates.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: about 5000 pounds per year
  16. Caulk and weather-strip around doors and windows to plug air leaks.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 1000 pounds per year
  17. Ask your utility company for an energy efficiency audit.
    Carbon dioxide reduction: potentially thousands of pounds per year
  18. Buy energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs for your most used lights.
    carbon dioxide reduction: 500 pounds per year for each frequently used light bulb replaced

| GOALS | ACTIVITIES | FACTS & CONCERNS | EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS |
| CAREER TOOLS | JOB OPENINGS | FACT SHEETS |
| AMPHIBIANS AS SENTINELS | CLIMATE AND HEALTH | NEWSLETTER EXCERPTS |
| ANNUAL REPORT | MEETING REPORT | MEMBERSHIP |
| RELATED SITES | HOME |

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