HERCULES-supported junior investigator, Liuhua Shi, was recently awarded an NIEHS R21 entitled “Climate Penalty: Climate-driven Increases in Ozone and PM2.5 Levels and Mortality.” A summary of her proposed work is below.
Climate change is the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century. While numerous pathways of the health impact of climate change have been proposed, the “climate penalty” effect, i.e., a warming temperature worsens ambient air quality and consequently influences human health, remains poorly understood, resulting in an underestimated public health burden associated with global warming. We hypothesize that rising temperature can indirectly affect all-cause mortality via worsening both PM2.5and ozone levels in the Southeastern US (SEUS). We propose a study that will leverage the Medicare cohort from 2000-2016, the largest longitudinal cohort available for the SEUS and the high-resolution temperature, PM2.5, and O3 data, to investigate all-cause mortality in response to the “climate penalty” effect using a mediation statistical analysis. Specifically, we will quantify the health effect of “climate penalty” on all-cause mortality using a mediation analysis and explore whether mitigating anthropogenic air pollution emissions might serve as a pathway of climate change adaptation. If a reduction in anthropogenic air pollution emissions can potentially mitigate the overall mortality associated with the “climate penalty” effect, it indicates that improving air quality may reduce the health impact of climate change, thus amplifying the effectiveness of other climate mitigation measures. The proposed research will improve understanding of the interplays between climate, air pollution, and human health based on real-world big data, and provide epidemiological evidence of an important pathway that climate change adversely affects human health, with immediate relevance to climate and environmental policymaking.