Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health
“What I like most about this field is that I get to spend my time imagining what a low-emission society would look like.”
Noah Scovronick has always held a deep love for nature. Immediately after graduating with his bachelor’s from Emory College, he packed up and relocated to Ecuador where he studied monkeys and frogs in the Amazon. Then, he moved to South Africa—a country where he had previously spent time while abroad as an undergrad—where he earned his master’s in conservation biology and worked in several of Southern Africa’s national parks studying natural resource use. Throughout his studies and wildlife conservation work, Scovronick kept seeing a common theme that he couldn’t ignore: people, wildlife, the ecosystem, and the broader environment were all closely linked and highly interdependent.
He followed his curiosity to the field of environmental health, and went on to earn his Master of Science and PhD in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Now, as an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Rollins, he spends much of his time studying climate change, its effects on human health, and what we can do from a policy perspective.
“What I like most about this field is that I get to spend my time imagining what a low-emission society would look like,” he says. “What changes would we see? How could we make those changes most beneficial? That’s exciting, because if we get serious about climate change, it would have a profound influence on society. We could see some really beautiful things come out of it.”
Where Scovronick places most of his focus is on the links between climate and health, which includes things like heat waves, storms, and sea level rise. It also means trying to understand the implications on human health if we adopt interventions to reduce climate change.
“If we enact strong climate policies, it will change how we travel, what we eat, what we breathe, and more, so there’s a lot of opportunities to improve public health, but there’s a lot of potential harms that can go along with that, too, if we aren’t careful. My research tries to figure out how we can maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of climate action.”
In his climate policy work, Scovronick collaborates closely with economists, philosophers, atmospheric scientists, and public health experts as he looks at the costs and benefits of climate policy, to determine how much we should be doing about climate change, when we should be doing it, and where we should be doing it.
Scovronick also conducts epidemiological studies of the effects of climate and weather, particularly as it relates to outdoor temperatures, on human health. Much of his research looks at temperature and mortality relationships in South Africa. Through his research in that area, he’s also joined a multi-country collaboration where researchers from more than 40 countries pool their data to gain a more detailed and truly global understanding of the health impacts of changes in temperature and weather patterns.
Like much of public health, Scovronick’s work is driven by a sense of urgency. The steps taken now will determine the course of life on earth and Scovronick’s research can help drive the path forward. It’s a message he brings to the classroom as well.
“It’s important to me that climate change is not just another entry on that laundry list of public health issues, but that it stands out,” he says. “I want to make sure that students leave understanding the whole issue, because it truly is enormous and complex. It has to do with the past and the future and the whole world. It percolates through everything.”