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The epic, dramatic three-part saga known as the presidential debates is finally over.

Coincidentally, our supply of good whiskey is also done. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

They were some of the craziest debates we’ve ever seen, but one glaring, ozone-sized hole stood out: climate change. None of the moderators asked about it.

Here's the thing: Climate change factors into nearly every topic the candidates spoke about. Climate change is about our planet, about conflict, about health, about science, about jobs, about international relations — so it's wild that we didn't hear about it at all. As science-loving dudes, we're frustrated.


In honor of the debates ending, here are some examples of why talking about how our planet is changing really, really matters. This is the stuff that should have been discussed:

Take national security and the refugee crisis, for instance.

Refugees in Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Our politicians may still be making up their minds about the validity of the warming of our Earth (real talk: Scientific consensus around this is real. It's not a political issue.), butour armed services divisions are already calling climate change a "threat multiplier" and "accelerant of instability." They're integrating it into all their plans.

What does an "accelerant of instability" mean? Take the Syrian refugee crisis: The conflict in Syria is a massive, messy tragedy, but climate change played a role in at least part of it, according to Columbia University professor Marc Levy. Severe drought and ruined crops — both potential effects of climate change — exacerbated Syria's already unstable system prior to the crisis.

The rest of the world is not immune, either. There are already climate refugees in places like Kiribati, Vanuatu, and, yes, even the United States.

OK, that was one thing, but there was another big topic on everybody's mind: jobs and the economy. Well, guess what...

Floodwaters flow into the Carey Tunnel in New York during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Climate change costs a lot. Superstorm Sandy cost New Yorkers $50 billion. This year alone, at least 12 over-a-billion-dollars-lost weather and climate disasters have hit the U.S. And, yes, climate change is likely contributing to these kinds of storms, wildfires, and droughts.

Other costs include funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency and building climate-proof infrastructure like seawalls and flood control — all of which takes considerable dough. By 2100, the U.S. could be paying nearly $2 trillion every year because of climate change.

It's not all bad news, though: Renewable energy could also create a ton of new jobs. While the shrinking opportunities in unclean energy are rightly on some people's minds (lookin' at you, Ken Bone), new initiatives could help workers make the transition to renewable jobs.

Climate change could even affect our health care.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

It’s a good thing that Obamacare got rid of that stuff about pre-existing conditions, because climate change is now a pre-existing condition that makes health issues worse for certain people.

Warmer temperatures may mean more mosquitoes and ticks and more habitable places for the little blood-suckers. That might also mean more insect-borne diseases like malaria and Zika. Heat stroke could go up too, as well as air pollution.

So why do we need to talk about climate change? Because it affects our health. It could even make our allergies worse (noooooo).

Let's get real: There’s a reason the entire United Nations met in Paris last year to talk about our changing planet.

Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

195 nations came together at the 21st Conference of the Parties, and the fact that they all actually agreed on something was historic. That puts climate change directly at the center of international diplomacy.

Regardless of who is sworn into office on Jan. 20, climate change will be a huge part of the job for the next four years.

If we can’t even talk about our planet, maybe the current debates aren’t the best way to help us live more informed lives.

We deserved a chance to hear the candidates talk about climate change, to at least hear whether Donald Trump still thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax (except when he doesn't). And we deserved to hear about what Hillary Clinton plans to do to help us adapt as our planet changes.

We can’t be discussing our kids' futures without also discussing what kind of future we’re giving them. That's why the climate change conversation matters.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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