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

MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less