Increasing concern for climate change health risks

Several American medical societies are working together to educate the public on the health risks of climate change.

The health risks associated with climate change have long been a topic of concern for the scientific community. Recently, 11 of the leading American medical societies launched a consortium to inform the public and policy makers of these risks, and how to prepare for the future.

This group, known as the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, released a report to discuss the potential health concerns from climate change. The report includes research on these health impacts and evidence showing health can be improved by reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases. The report outlines three types of harm from climate change: (1) direct harm from violent weather, lung diseases, wildfires, etc.; (2) spread of disease through insects and contaminated food; and (3) mental health from the damage caused by climate change.

Doctors in the consortium have seen the effects of climate change on health already. These risks would likely be most damaging for the low-income communities who would be unable to afford the necessary treatments.

To promote a healthier environment, the doctors are working with climate scientists to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy sources over fossil fuels. They see this as part of their job. “Doctors work to prevent smoking and help patients quit, because smoking harms health and increases the risk of cancer or lung disease,” says Nitin Damale, president of the American College of Physicians. “We see efforts to combat climate change in the same way: they will improve health today and reduce health risks down the road.”

The report will be distributed to Congress members, state leaders, businesses and medical groups. These physicians hope to influence policy decisions with their experience.

With the appointment of climate change skeptic, Scott Priutt, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump administration has taken a clear stance against climate change policy. The formation of this consortium is a timely response and could work to minimise the damage caused by the current cohort.

Peter Sherman is studying for an MSci in Physics

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