In particular, this affects individuals in lower socioeconomic circumstances. After a climatic hazard event, households with limited pre-hazard resources are less able to effectively maintain food security.12 Typically, individuals with food insecurity are more likely to purchase lower-priced highly processed foods that contribute to obesity.11

Seeking Solutions

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Webb and Egger note that public health campaigns “have not translated into common practice.” The authors suggest that the reason for this “disconnect” is “rapid changes to the macro- and microenvironments through economic development, which overwhelms these health messages.” The “obesogenic” environment continues to “hold the balance of power” in the war against obesity.

Interventions often target corporations,13 forcing them to be responsible and find “greener,” more environmentally friendly alternatives. But interventions targeting corporations are insufficient, since 40-50% of GHG emissions come from individuals and households.14 

Personal Carbon Trading (PCT) is a system that engages individuals in reducing emissions,15 and emission-reducing behaviors also lead to obesity-reducing behaviors. PCT is designed to “entice individuals to have more responsibility for their own carbon-related… and… health-related behavior”1 by giving individuals a personal carbon allowance.

This approach is being studied on Norfolk Island, a self-governing Australian protectorate. Researchers are investigating the possible impact of a PCT system on obesity-related behaviors.16 

After completing a baseline survey, residents received electronic “carbon cards,” which will record in real-time carbon-related behaviors (eg, use of fuel, power, and electricity and—in the second phase of the trial—food purchasing). Participants will be offered a hypothetical financial incentive or disincentive as a way of testing out the concept of a PCT. 

Data are currently being prepared for publication and results are pending. 


Webb and Egger suggest that while a PCT intervention is “unlikely” to independently solve population obesity, it does “have the potential to positively influence the macro environment, a key construct of the epidemiological triad.” 

They call for collaboration between health and environmental scientists to “communicate and support cross disciplinary initiatives and messages around climate change and obesity management.”