Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

77 Health Organizations Call for Climate Action to Fight Public Health Emergency

Health + Wellness
Leading medical groups signed a policy agenda released Monday calling for climate action. hocus-focus / Getty Images

More than 70 leading public health groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that the climate crisis is also a 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.

"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.

Meanwhile, Gundersen Health System CEO Emeritus Jeffrey Thompson shared how extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires were making it harder for hospitals to care for their patients.

"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.

  1. Meet and ramp up Paris agreement commitments.
  2. Transition away from coal, oil and natural gas and towards renewable energy.
  3. Encourage a shift from driving to biking, walking or public transportation while shifting to zero-carbon transit alternatives.
  4. Support sustainable agriculture and protect green spaces.
  5. Make sure all communities have safe and sustainable supplies of drinking water.
  6. 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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial picture showing fires burning in Brazil's Amazon rainforest on August 23, 2019. Carl de Souza / AFP / Getty Images

The number of forest fires in Brazil's Amazon rainforest increased 28% in July in comparison to last year, the country's National Institute for Space Research reported Saturday.

Read More Show Less
A plane drops fire retardant over a home as the Apple Fire burns during the coronavirus pandemic on Aug. 1, 2020 in Cherry Valley, California. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California's first major wildfire this year has devoured more than 20,000 acres since Friday and forced thousands to flee their homes in the midst of a pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Water trickles down a hillside among moss next to the entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault during a summer heat wave as mountains behind stand devoid of snow on Svalbard archipelago on July 29 in Longyearbyen, Norway. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

By Johnny Wood

What better place to build a Doomsday Vault than the remote, snow-covered islands of Norway's Arctic Svalbard? Sitting around 1,000 kilometers from the North Pole, the facility is buried in permafrost to protect the precious seed samples housed there. But a freak heatwave is causing the region's ice to melt.

Read More Show Less
Tens of thousands of people attend a Black Lives Matter protest which was mainly peaceful on June 6 in London, United Kingdom. Phil Clarke Hill / In Pictures / Getty Images

As climate activists, we can't fight the climate crisis without considering the systemic impacts that environmental racism and White supremacy have on the frontline communities most affected by pollution and our warming world.

Read More Show Less
Whooping cranes fly in Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama. There were only 48 whooping cranes in the country when the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, and thanks to the law's protections there are now over 600. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Eoin Higgins

Environmental groups on Friday condemned the announcement of a new rule proposed by President Donald Trump that would further weaken the Endangered Species Act by making it easier to destroy habitats vulnerable species rely on for survival.

Read More Show Less
Students at the "Japon" public school number 72 attend class during the first day of the final phase of the gradual process to reopen schools on June 28 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Ernesto Ryan / Getty Images

By Bob Spires

As American school officials debate when it will be safe for schoolchildren to return to classrooms, looking abroad may offer insights. Nearly every country in the world shuttered their schools early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have since sent students back to class, with varying degrees of success.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Tara Moore / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Maya Osman-Krinsky

In the United States, over 2,000 acres of agricultural land are sold every day for housing or commercial development, according to the American Farmland Trust. This has especially affected Black farmers who, since 1920, have seen nearly a 90 percent decline in land ownership, according to the U.S. Census.

Read More Show Less