National Health and Medical Organizations Issue Declaration, Urge Bold Action to Fight Climate Change

April 4, 2016

Today, 17 national health and medical organizations released a joint Declaration on Climate Change and Health, urging immediate action to address the health impacts of climate change, even as the nation’s leading experts sound the alarm with a new comprehensive report on the growing harms to human health from climate change.

The American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, National Medical Association and other organizations signed the declaration, calling for bold action to address climate change to protect public health, especially for the nation’s most vulnerable populations: children, seniors, low-income communities and those with chronic diseases, all of whom disproportionately bear the health impacts of climate change.

The declaration comes just as the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) today released its latest report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, which documents the growing scientific evidence that climate change has already endangered public health, and projects health impacts to come.

“Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but already takes a dangerous toll on Americans’ health,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Today’s projections show that we have no time to lose in the fight to reduce pollution that drives climate change including carbon pollution, methane and other pollutants.”

The USGCRP climate and health assessment synthesizes the scientific literature, including peer-reviewed quantitative analyses of observed and projected health impacts from climate change in the United States. It paints a grim picture of a future without action to combat climate change: one in which air quality is degraded due to rising temperatures, ozone, drought and wildfires; heavy rains are more frequent; heat waves are hotter and hurricanes are more severe. These major shifts in weather and environment have disastrous consequences for public health, including worsened symptoms of lung disease and other chronic illnesses; higher risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion; new threats of food- and waterborne diseases; and increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular and kidney disorders.

As part of the climate declaration, the 17 national health and medical organizations urge leaders across the country to address climate change now. Action steps include cleaning up major sources of carbon pollution, including power plants, and cars, trucks and other mobile sources, and cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. Methane and carbon pollution are key contributors to climate change.

“This assessment establishes even greater urgency for states to act on the Clean Power Plan, and for continued progress at the federal level,” said Wimmer. “The Clean Power Plan, as the first federal plan to curb dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, marks a vital step forward. To protect the health of their residents, states should develop strong plans to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan without delay.”

“Today’s climate and health assessment is a wake-up call,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. “Cardiovascular disease, heat exhaustion, water- and vector-borne diseases, respiratory illness, increased allergies — our communities are already experiencing the impacts. Our leaders must act without delay to reduce emissions to avoid even more hospital visits, missed school days, injuries, illness, and premature deaths.”

“The science is clear: Americans across the country are experiencing the health impacts of climate change. But some communities are particularly vulnerable,” said Edith P. Mitchell, MD, FACP, President of the National Medical Association. “Children, seniors and people with chronic disease face short- and long-term health problems and can see the symptoms of pre-existing problems dramatically worsen. Polluting power plants are often located near where many people, especially people of color or those with lower income live and work, making them even more vulnerable.”

The declaration by national health and medical groups can be found here. The USGCRP’s report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, can be found here.

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