Quantcast

Surgeon General's Warning: We Must Act on Climate

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

Mark Ruffalo: TPP Would Fuel Climate Chaos and Empower Corporate Polluters

Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft File Amicus Brief in Support of the Clean Power Plan

U.S. and China to Sign Paris Climate Agreement on Earth Day

Climate Model Predicts Melting of West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Double Sea Level Rise

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

The Carolina parakeet went extinct in 1918. James St. John / CC BY 2.0

The Carolina parakeet, the only parrot species native to the U.S., went extinct in 1918 when the last bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Now, a little more than 100 years later, researchers have determined that humans were entirely to blame.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An elephant in Botswana. Mario Micklisch / CC BY 2.0

Two hunters who shot and killed a research elephant in Botswana and then destroyed its collar to hide the evidence have been banned from further hunting in the country.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brianna Elliott, RD

Vitamin C is a very important nutrient that's abundant in many fruits and vegetables.

Read More Show Less
BLM drill seeders work to restore native grasses after wildfire on the Bowden Hills Wilderness Study Area in southeast Oregon, Dec. 14, 2018. Marcus Johnson / BLM / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

In 2017 the Thomas fire raged through 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, California, leaving in its wake a blackened expanse of land, burned vegetation, and more than 1,000 destroyed buildings.

Read More Show Less