Washington, DC – More heat waves, worse air pollution, and the spread of diseases to new areas are among the growing health threats from climate change, more than 950 health professionals warned in a letter to President Obama today, delivered as part of National Public Health Week.
"We are thrilled to see President Obama recognizing the serious urgency of health effects related to climate change," said Charlotte Wallace, a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments who attended a roundtable with the president at Howard University this afternoon. "Nurses and other health professionals support efforts to reduce climate pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan, and ask the President to continue his strong leadership in addressing climate change."
Doctors, nurses, researchers, and other health professionals from 49 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants. At the same time, they noted that all fossil fuels, including natural gas, contribute to health risks and premature deaths. They called for prioritizing renewable energy and energy efficiency as healthy alternatives to polluting energy sources.
“The Clean Power Plan gives us a powerful tool to lower climate pollution,” noted Catherine Thomasson, MD, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “And the options for expanding renewable energy sources and energy efficiency will also protect us from the deadly pollutants that come from fossil fuels, like mercury, air toxics and particulates. That’s a sure pathway to a healthier future.”
The EPA proposal, announced in June, sets targets for each state to reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 2030. Two recent reports from Environment America found that wind energy alone could more than meet the carbon pollution reduction target of the Clean Power Plan, and that solar alone could meet half the EPA emissions target.
The U.S. is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, once viewed as a distant threat. 2014 was the warmest year on record, and 14 of the 15 hottest years have come since 2000. Warmer temperatures increase the risk of deaths from heat waves and worsen air quality where smog is already a problem.
“Climate change is harming the health of individuals in the US and around the globe and there will be more harm as time goes on,” said Jerome Paulson, MD, member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Emeritus Professor at George Washington University. “I support the Administration’s efforts to reduce air pollution because lower air pollution levels will decrease health threats of climate change while decreasing other climate related problems.”
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, Environment America and others recruited the health professionals who signed today's letter. They join a chorus of businesses, local and state officials, and religious leaders calling for bold action on climate. In all, Americans have submitted more than 8 million comments supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
"As a nurse, I recognize the clear and discernable link between climate change and human health. If we do not take immediate steps to address climate change, we face rising rates of asthma, respiratory diseases, and insect-borne diseases such as Lyme disease," stated Laura Anderko, RN, PhD, Robert and Kathleen Scanlon-Endowed Chair in Values Based Health Care at Georgetown University. "This is why I have joined with nearly 1,000 health professionals to strongly advocate for policies to protect public health such as the Clean Power Plan. The next generation is depending on us."
The Clean Power Plan is a central plank of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. The U.S. formally submitted its plan to the United Nations last week to reduce climate pollution 26-28% by 2025. Recent American leadership has raised hopes that an international climate agreement will be reached at talks in Paris this December.