Just in time for the Democratic presidential debates, over 70 medical and public health groups have implored politicians to act upon climate change. Going one step further, these organizations declared climate change “the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century.”
Priority Action Items
This urgent call to action detailed several actions these organizations believe are necessary to warrant meaningful change. For instance, some policy recommendations included strengthening U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement and significantly reducing fossil fuel reliance. Further, some organizations believe shifting towards more eco-friendly modes of transportation is essential.
Organizations Endorse Climate Change Agenda
Leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, endorsed the new climate change agenda.
The organizations wrote in their statement, “The health, safety, and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change.”
Climate change, the groups said, is culpable for exacerbated cases of extreme heat, droughts, and perilous storms, floods, and wildfires, which have led to hundreds and thousands of deaths and displaced citizens after their homes were devastated.
Heat Waves Taking Lives
This week, citizens in Europe and parts of the U.S. were hit by a major heat wave. The other day, France experienced its hottest day ever recorded at more than 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Europe’s heat wave left a death count of two thus far.
Organizations’ Climate Agenda
Within the agenda, groups referred to a study conducted by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health revealing emergency room visits for heat-induced illnesses rose 133% from 1997 to 2006. The groups also connected increases in diseases like asthma and vector-borne diseases such as West Nile virus that are indicative of poor environmental factors—such as air pollution and extreme changes in temperature—to climate change.
The agenda also highlighted how climate change disproportionately threatens the well-being of the nation’s most vulnerable groups. Specifically, climate change impacts children, the elderly, pregnant women, and marginalized communities more heavily. Health professionals hope their frank characterization of climate change as a “health emergency” will prompt further conversation and actual political intervention.
Health Professionals Point Out Reality of Climate Change
However, many health professionals hope not only influence the actions of political leaders in the nation but everyday citizens as well. Ed Maibach of George Mason University believes the agenda will strongly influence voters in 2020.
“It’s incredibly helpful when health professionals point out the actual reality of the situation, point out that this is also a threat to our health and well-being now…and it’s likely to get worse, much worse if we don’t take action to address it,” Maibach said about the agenda.
The Political Arena Recognizes Climate Change as a Mainstream Issue
With the political climate heating up, it seems conversation on climate change is following it. In the first night of debates alone, four 2020 candidates declared climate change as the nation’s most pressing geopolitical threat.
“Our existential threat is climate change,” presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said. “We have to confront it before it’s too late.”
The widespread consensus among the Democratic candidate pool on the need to prioritize climate change as an issue is reassuring. It is becoming significantly more possible America’s next president will help lead the way for a cleaner, greener future. For now, the nation’s top health organizations are striving to help pave that path.