Why Doctors Are Making a Connection Between Climate Change and Health
From family doctors to the Surgeon General, more and more medical practitioners are making the same diagnosis: climate change is bad for your health. Doctors are seeing an increase in respiratory ailments, cardiovascular disease, and heat-related deaths.
The cure? Cutting carbon pollution. According to a new study from researchers at Harvard and Syracuse, if the EPA’s proposed plan to curb emissions from power plants is implemented, it could prevent up to 3,500 premature deaths a year, and potentially save billions in health care costs.
The win-win potential goes beyond just medical expenses. As this Grist article by Dr. Jonathan Patz (professor and director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison) and Dr. Howard Frumkin (dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington and a Climate for Health leader) points out, fighting climate change offers economic opportunities as well. Tech companies like Google and Microsoft are collecting data to help the nation’s health systems understand and prepare for health impacts – the new technologies they develop to gather this data will make their profits healthier, too. There are also benefits to be gained from climate-friendly behaviors like biking more or eating less red meat.
It’s always important to emphasize the co-benefits of solutions when engaging people on climate issues. But it’s especially crucial when there are lives at stake.
By Jonathan Patz and Howard Frumkin
It’s never a comfortable conversation, but it’s one that doctors like us have learned to deliver to our patients: Your behavior is endangering your health, and you need to recognize the risks.
Usually, clear-eyed patients can see the symptoms themselves — weight gain, let’s say, or difficulty breathing — as well as the changes necessary to improve their health.
Now, the nation’s leading medical practitioners — with the White House behind them — are stepping forward with a diagnosis that all of us should heed, because the symptoms are becoming undeniable and the risks tremendous: Climate change is a health threat.
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