Submitted to: Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/22/2008
Publication Date: 2/1/2009
Citation: Ziska, L.H., Epstein, P.R., Schlesinger, W. 2009. Rising CO2, climate change, and public health: Exploring the links to plant biology. Environmental Health Perspectives. 117(2):155-158.
Interpretive Summary: The public health implications, with respect to climate change and plant biology, have been largely ignored by the medical community. However, there are a number of direct means by which plant biology intersects with human health, including aero-biology (allergens, asthma), contact dermatitis (rashes), and toxicology (poison ingestion). In addition, there are a number of indirect links with human health, including pharmacology (plant based analgesics), nutrition (reduced protein levels), and pesticide use. All of these links, both direct and indirect, are likely to be affected by the ongoing changes in CO2/climate. In this summary, myself, Paul Epstein from Harvard Medical School, and Dr. William Schlesinger of the Cary Institute, provide an assessment of what is known, with respect to the medical implications of plant biology, climate change and public health, and provide areas of new research direction. As such, the work should be of interest to plant scientists, health care providers, and policy makers.
Technical Abstract: Although the issue of anthropogenic climate forcing and public health is widely recognized, one fundamental aspect has remained underappreciated; the impact of climatic change on plant biology and the well-being of human systems. To critically evaluate the extant and probable links between plant function and human health, drawing on the pertinent literature. Here we provide a number of critical examples that range over various health concerns related to plant biology and climate change; including aerobiology, contact dermatitis, pharmacology, toxicology and pesticide use. There are a number of clear links between climate change, plant biology and public health that remain underappreciated by both plant scientists and health care providers. We have attempted to demonstrate the importance of such links in our understanding of climate change impacts, and have derived a list of key questions that will help to integrate plant biology into the current paradigm regarding climate change and human health.