Public health experts urge action on climate change
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is calling the National Climate Assessment released last week is “a grave reminder of the action we need to take now to protect our communities from the negative health effects of climate change.”
Human health in the U.S. is one of the areas identified in the report as being negatively impacted by climate change. Others include the environment, water resources, agriculture, energy production and transportation.
From the National Climate Assessment:
“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality. Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts. Prioritizing adaptation actions for the most vulnerable populations would contribute to a more equitable future within and across communities. Global action to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions can substantially reduce climate-related risks and increase opportunities for these populations in the longer term.”
Although the report was released by the Trump administration – as required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 passed by Congress - President Donald Trump has said that he does not believe its conclusions.
Some 13 federal agencies and approximately 300 scientists contributed to the assessment. The APHA says it strongly supports the need for action expressed in the report.
Extreme weather, diseases and mental health
"Climate change increases public health risks through heatwaves, floods, droughts and other extreme events, diseases spread by pests and contaminated food and water, and the mental health consequences of these and other traumatic extreme events,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD. “Every American is vulnerable to worse health as a result of climate change. Many individuals and communities have already been irreparably harmed by its health impacts.
"Importantly, the assessment reminds us that the health risks of climate change are not experienced equally. Older adults, children, communities of color, and low-income communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change health threats.”
Benjamin is urging the U.S. to move forward with policies like the Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants and improve air quality.
“It’s imperative that we provide resources to state and local health departments to address the health impacts of climate change in their communities.”