Surgeon General's Warning: We Must Act on Climate
Climate change is a serious threat to public health, particularly for pregnant women, children, communities of color and low-income people, a government report issued Monday has warned.
The report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, finds that rising temperatures in the coming years will bring along with them the increased risk of:
- death from heat stroke, particularly in the summer months;
- chronic and acute respiratory issues;
- vector-borne illnesses like the West Nile virus and Lyme disease, as well as the new emergence of new pathogens;
- chemical toxins in the food chain;
- and mental health consequences of being exposed to climate disasters—among a litany of other risks.
"Every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change," White House Science Adviser John Holdren said Monday. "Some are more vulnerable than others."
In particular, the report finds, those facing the highest risk are pregnant women, children, communities of color, the elderly, people who work outdoors, those with disabilities or preexisting medical conditions, immigrants and low-income people.
"I don't think we have seen something like this before where we have a force that has such a multitude of impacts," said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, comparing the effects to the polio epidemic. However, he said, polio was cured through a vaccine—which does not exist for climate change.
"There is not one single source we can target," he said. "As far as history is concerned this is a new kind of threat that we are facing."
The report was produced by eight government agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It comes just ahead of the April 22 meeting between world leaders in New York, where they are expected to formally sign the landmark climate agreement finalized in Paris in December.
EPA director Gina McCarthy said the report aimed to show that climate change is "not just about glaciers and polar bears—it's about the health of families and our kids."
"Climate change endangers our health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe and the weather we experience," McCarthy said. "It will exacerbate certain health effects that already exist and create new ones."
The report also predicts that extreme heat could cause 11,000 more premature deaths a year by 2030 than previously predicted.
Bottom line, said Murthy, "If we want to safeguard the health of current and future generations, we have to address climate change."
Avoiding all the risks outlined in the report will be impossible, said Holdren, as "climate change is already underway and no matter what we do it cannot be stopped overnight. But there is a huge difference between the magnitude if we fail to act ... and if we take the actions set out in the Climate Action Plan and the Paris climate agreement."
Climate change "is a pervasive problem with many dimensions of impacts," Holdren said, "which together I think make it the most serious threat we face."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
By Stacy Malkan
Neil deGrasse Tyson has inspired millions of people to care about science and imagine themselves as participants in the scientific process. What a hopeful sign it is to see young girls wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words, "Forget princess, I want to be an astrophysicist."
As Trevor Noah noted during The Daily Show episode last night (starts at 2:25), the real reason Trump has these rallies is to "get back in front of his loyal crowds and feed of their energy." Noah believes that "Trump supporters are so on board with their dude he can say anything and they'll come along for the ride."
By Katie O'Reilly
Two years ago—long before coal became one of the most dominant and controversial symbols of the 2016 presidential election—Bloomberg Philanthropies approached production company RadicalMedia with the idea of creating a documentary exploring the U.S. coal mining industry. Last spring, they brought on Emmy-nominated director Michael Bonfiglio, tasked with forging a compelling story out of the multitudes of facts, statistics and narratives underlying the declining industry.
The Sierra Club released a new analysis Friday that found that transitioning all 1,400+ U.S. Conference of Mayors member-cities to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity will significantly reduce electric sector carbon pollution nationwide and help the U.S. towards meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Watch above as Newsy explains that the decision comes despite serious concerns from the environmental and scientific community, and Tribal Nations about a declining, isolated grizzly bear population with diminishing food resources and record-high mortalities.
By Francine Kershaw
Seismic airguns exploding in the ocean in search for oil and gas have devastating impacts on zooplankton, which are critical food sources for marine mammals, according to a new study in Nature. The blasting decimates one of the ocean's most vital groups of organisms over huge areas and may disrupt entire ecosystems.
And this devastating news comes on the heels of the National Marine Fisheries Service's proposal to authorize more than 90,000 miles of active seismic blasting. Based on the results of this study, the affected area would be approximately 135,000 square miles.
By Jill Richardson
Is coconut oil:
- good for you
- bad for you
- neither good nor bad
- scientists don't know
The subject of this question is the source of a disagreement. Initially, the question was thought to be settled decades ago, when scientist Ancel Keys declared all saturated fats unhealthy. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, is a saturated fat.