Last week, we witnessed another example of President Donald Trump effacing his predecessor’s legacy under the guise of eliminating “job-killing regulations.”
In what Trump hailed as a “new energy revolution that celebrates American production on American soil,” the United States unraveled former President Barack Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan which was designed to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants thirty-two percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Those plants produce almost 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
The long-term implications of climate change are mind boggling: rising sea levels due to melting polar ice caps; an increase in unpredictable and extreme weather; new or resurfacing extant diseases; food shortages that could lead to skyrocketing costs; mass migrations that could lead to military conflicts; obscene amounts of money required to construct and/or update levies and dams; an explosion in invasive plant and animal species.
On it goes.
This is not a problem “down the road.” Recently, medical organizations representing over half of American physicians launched a campaign to alert policymakers and the public to climate change’s dangers to public health.
The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Geriatrics Society, and other professional medical groups. Dr. Mona Sarfaty, director of the Consortium, said:
“Physicians are on the front lines and see the impacts in exam rooms. What’s worse is that the harms are felt most by children, the elderly, Americans with low-income or chronic illnesses, and people in communities of color.”
The Consortium on Climate and Health’s new report delineates ways climate is already adversely affecting health, including contributing to asthma and other respiratory diseases.
The Zika virus and Lyme disease are significant health risks; however, the report states these ailments are more often found in the tropics. Their presence in more northerly climates results from an increased spread of insect-borne diseases, symptomatic of climate change.
Doctor Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at University Hospital of Cleveland, Ohio, says:
“There is great consensus in scientific, public health and medical literature that acting on climate change is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, public health opportunities of our time. As a pediatrician, I am interested in safeguarding the health of all children. In order to that, safeguarding a healthy environment is critical.”
Bole states that because children’s respiratory rates are faster than adult’s, children are more susceptible to air quality issues. She says:
“The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 80 percent of the health burdens of climate change will fall on children under [age] five,” Dr. Bole says.
Asthma is the most prevalent respiratory problem children face, particularly children of color and those hailing from low-income environments. In Cleveland, one in every five African American child suffers from asthma.
Doctor Bole said:
“Children living in poverty are disproportionately impacted by environmental health hazards, and climate change is no different.”
Molly Rauch is policy director for Moms Clean Air Force, an organization advocating for combating climate change and air pollution. She said:
“Asthma is an epidemic in this country. If air pollution makes asthma worse, [parents] want to know about it. And if climate change makes air pollution worse, we actually really need to know about it in order to take care of our children.”
Physicians can use the trust patients put in them to educate about climate change’s imminent health impacts. A 2014 Yale national survey found most Americans trust their primary care physicians more than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization.
The Consortium plans on delivering its report to Congress, the Trump administration, and CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies to push for transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician in Alexandria, Va., and Consortium member, said:
“We have a moral obligation to act on their [patients’] behalf. Given our current understanding today, failure to take prompt substantive action to reduce emissions would be an unprecedented injustice to every current and future child.”
There has never been a worse time to ignore the exigencies of climate change. President Trump and his cabinet may not find it convenient to acknowledge, but we still can pressure our lawmakers and down-ballot candidates in upcoming elections to put climate change mitigation paramount on their agenda.
It is no longer about hotter summers, colder winters, or more beach-front property. It’s about our health and the health of our children.
Featured Image: Screenshot Via YouTube Video.