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Seminar 9

“Future of Planet Earth” Participant Biography

Paris, France | June 3–5, 2008

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Anthony McMichael

Anthony McMichael is an epidemiologist and population health researcher, with a primary interest in environmental risks to health. He has a wider interest in paleo-anthropology, the biological evolution of the human species, the development of cultures and social structures, technological choices, and how these all affect risks of disease in humans. (In Johannesburg in 2006 he met, face-to-skull, our late Australopithecine ancestor, the Taung Child.) The changeability, over time and space, of infectious disease emergences, rates, outbreaks and pandemics illustrates well how ever-changing environments and human ecologies affect patterns of disease and survival. More generally, he hopes, via both research and published learned-journal and media commentaries, to connect the domain of population health research and policy with the wider contemporary public agenda on global changes, population, urbanization, climate change, environment, and sustainability.

McMichael graduated in medicine in 1967 (Adelaide University, South Australia) and, after two years in full-time national student politics, he followed a career path in epidemiology. Currently he is a federally funded “Australia Fellow” at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra (having been Director of that Centre, 2001–2007). He is also President of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (2008–2009). From 1994 to 2001, he was Professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.

Over the past fifteen years McMichael has played a central role, internationally, in establishing the importance and methods of studying the current and future health risks of climate change and of other global environmental changes. (In 1993 he published Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and Health of the Human Species, Cambridge University Press – the first book to draw substantive attention to the risks posed to human health and survival by the unprecedented impacts we are now having on Earth’s biogeophysical systems.) In that role, as environmental epidemiologist, he has been an advisor to the World Health Organization, UN Environment Program, UN Population Division, UNAIDS office, and World Bank.

From 1993 to 2007 McMichael participated actively in the scientific work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), chairing and reviewing the assessment of health impacts. (He therefore shared about one two-thousandth of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize!) He also co-coordinated the assessment of health risks within the international Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2001–2006. He co-chairs the “Global Environmental Change and Human Health” Project within the Earth System Science Partnership, part of the extended family of the International Council of Science (ICSU). His recent books include Human Frontiers, Environments and Disease: Past Patterns, Uncertain Futures (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses (WHO, 2003).