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Published: 2021-10-29

Umeå researchers highlight Arctic challenges at COP26

NEWS During two weeks, starting at the end of October, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will take place in Glasgow. Birgitta Evengård, Professor Emerita at the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umeå University, will participate in a panel discussion on climate change linked to the Arctic.

Text: Johanna Fredriksson

The Arctic is an extreme environment where nature and societies have adapted to cope with the conditions. But the region is highly vulnerable to both infectious diseases and natural disasters. In recent decades, the Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, threatening the health of people and animals living in the region. This has a major impact on what happens in the rest of the planet through rising sea levels as ice melts, major ocean currents do not cool down as they used to, and extreme weather is created.

Discussing problems and solutions

The United Nations Climate Summit - COP26 - will host a panel discussion on "Climate change, resilience and new pandemics in the Arctic” .Leading Nordic scientists will discuss the impact of climate change on people, animals, and communities in the Arctic and the Nordic countries. But also what solutions are available.
In addition to Birgitta Evengård, the panellists are Nils Christian Stenseth, Professor of Ecology and Environment at the University of Oslo, and Rico Kongsager, Associate Professor of Climate Adaptation at Københavns Professionshøjskole.

Over 70 % of infectious disease outbreaks originate in the animal world

Birgitta Evengård is Professor Emerita of Infectious Diseases at the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umeå University. For the last five years she has been working in the CLINF project at a Nordic Centre of Excellence, NCoE, which works to promote collaboration between outstanding researchers and research environments. Within CLINF she has been researching climate change and its impact on ecosystems and human and animal health in the north with a changing infectious disease landscape.
- "We are about forty senior researchers who believe this is important, and if anyone was hesitant when we started the research in 2016, the covid-19 pandemic has convinced us. Over 70% of infectious disease outbreaks originate in the animal world", says Birgitta Evengård.

Which issue do you think is most important to address at COP26?

- "The most important question overall is, of course, how the countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions intend to act to reduce emissions and work towards the climate goals", says Birgitta Evengård, and continues:
 - "From a scientific point of view, I think that work towards harmonizing data collection, i.e., monitoring nature, using technology such as Artificial Intelligence for example, is of current importance".

The Arctic affects the rest of the world

The Arctic region and its challenges are a strong focus area for Umeå University, a body of knowledge that Birgitta Evengård believes is important at the international climate conference.
- "Everyone involved in gathering and processing data is an important player, and this naturally includes Umeå University, which realized early on how important the Arctic is for what happens in the rest of the world", says Birgitta Evengård.
The panel debate will take place on November 1, between 2 PM and 3PM and is organized by Nordforsk, a research funding agency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The debate will be broadcast live, you can find the link to the broadcast here
More information on COP26

Birgitta Evengård

Birgitta Evengård is professor and senior physician at the Department of Clinical Microbiology and head of the unit for Infecious diseases.

Climate change will have a profound and rapid impact on the human biome. As climate change occurs at the fastest speed and also with the highest impact in the North this perspective is a rewarding one to study. The human biome in the Norths includes the change in the flora and fauna, all transforming the pretexts for development of societies in the North. A holistic approach including collaboration with many scholars is necessary.