77 Health Organizations Call for Climate Action to Fight Public Health Emergency
So far 77 organizations representing nurses, doctors, hospitals, volunteers and public health professionals have signed on to The Call to Action on Climate, Health and Equity: A Policy Action Agenda, released Monday. The agenda urges government, business and community leaders to take a series of actions designed to promote health and fight climate change.
Climate change is a health emergency. The Climate, Health, and Equity Policy Action Agenda calls for climate soluti… https://t.co/jIH6d3iGl0— AMA (@AMA)1561399201.0
"We are here today to declare that climate change is a health emergency. Climate change is already harming the health, safety and wellbeing of every American living today and if it is not addressed, will bring untold harm to all our children and grandchildren," former Acting Surgeon General and Retired U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak said in a transcript of a press call emailed to EcoWatch.
On the call, medical professionals shared how climate change was already impacting the health of their patients. Pediatrician and incoming Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health Dr. Aparna Bole explained how worsening air quality linked to global warming was increasing the risks faced by her patients in a Cleveland, Ohio community where one in five children has asthma.
"In my community, burning fossil fuels contribute to not just asthma exacerbations but also poor birth outcomes like low birth weight and prematurity, both risk factors for infant mortality. Even prenatal exposure leads to neurodevelopmental delays that negatively impact school readiness, which is an important foundation for a child's academic success," Bole said.
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many emergency medicine physicians throughout the U.S. were forced to ration critical IV fluids after the hurricane damaged a major producer of IV bags in Puerto Rico. This shortage persisted for months and into flu season. Imagine having to tell a worried mother that you couldn't give her child fluids that could help him," Thompson said.
The group outlined six major priorities for policy makers to fight climate change and improve health outcomes.
- Meet and ramp up Paris agreement commitments.
- Transition away from coal, oil and natural gas and towards renewable energy.
- Encourage a shift from driving to biking, walking or public transportation while shifting to zero-carbon transit alternatives.
- Support sustainable agriculture and protect green spaces.
- Make sure all communities have safe and sustainable supplies of drinking water.
- Ensure a "just transition" for workers and communities impacted by climate change.
The group also encouraged health organizations to take climate action by engaging with calls like this one, integrating climate responses into public health plans and assisting vulnerable communities in responding to climate impacts.
Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University Director Ed Maibach told the Associated Press that the health organizations' statement could shift some Americans' image of climate change as "primarily as a threat to things in the environment, like polar bears."
"It's incredibly helpful when health professionals point out the actual reality of the situation, point out that this is also a threat to our health and well-being now ... and it's likely to get worse, much worse, if we don't take action to address it," he said.
The call also comes as climate change is emerging as a major issue in the 2020 election, something Lushniak alluded to in introducing it.
"[W]e are well aware that we are initiating this effort at an important moment when our Nation's attention is increasingly focused on the most important issues we face and how we should address them," he said. "Our goal is to influence this national conversation at this critical moment. We are providing our leaders at all levels and with a meaningful path forward."
The call was released the same week that Democratic candidates will engage in their first debate, the Associated Press pointed out. It shares priorities with the climate policy proposed by candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Associated Press concluded, since it urges a transition away from fossil fuels without endorsing an outright ban on fracking.
"The best time to declare a climate emergency was 30 years ago; the second best time is now."@extinctionr @jeremycorbyn @gretathunberg #ExtinctionRebellion#CitizensAssembly#ZeroCarbon2025#TellTheTruth https://t.co/KYDYR4EG2e— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) May 2, 2019
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By Tara Lohan
Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.
Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.
"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."
Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.
It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.
Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.
Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.
One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.
The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.
They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.
"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."
That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.
And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.
"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."
Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.
"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.
The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.
"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.
The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.
"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."
The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.
The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.
The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.
To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.
Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.
"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.
"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."
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Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.
For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.
"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."
To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.
"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."
So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.