When a patient chooses to leave the hospital against medical advice, it is called “leaving AMA.” Many in the medical community view President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement tantamount to “leaving AMA” because it puts the health of every American at risk. Conversely, addressing climate change would result in immediate health benefits and save billions of health care dollars.
Many, if not most, medical organizations recognize the urgent need to address climate change. Recently, 12 medical societies representing more than 400,000 practicing physicians established the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health to increase public awareness of the health threats of climate change.
Many impacts will be felt here in Traverse City. As the summer season becomes longer and hotter, we can expect more virulent poison ivy, increased pollen from ragweed and more ticks and mosquitoes carrying infectious diseases.
While many parts of the nation will become drier, we will see more frequent and intense downpours. When this happens, sewer systems carrying bacteria can become overloaded, contaminating our rivers and lakes. It is estimated that the frequency of overflow events in the Great Lakes region will increase significantly as the climate changes.
Meanwhile, with the very young and the very old most vulnerable to extreme heat, including young athletes who frequently succumb to heat stroke, nearly 300 deaths are expected annually in Detroit by mid-century during heatwaves.
The good news is that addressing climate change is not only good for our health but also helps our wallets. How would transitioning from burning fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy save billions of health care dollars?
It would improve air quality, preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths as well as untold numbers of asthma attacks and doctors’ appointments. It would protect our young and unborn children from the fine particulate matter produced from burning fossil fuels that has been linked to an increased incidence of preterm deliveries, developmental delays and autism. It would encourage the development of a municipal infrastructure that encourages walking and biking to work, resulting in more active and healthy commuters. It would help eliminate mercury, a byproduct of burning coal, from Great Lakes fish.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a fundamental failure of leadership that places our collective health at risk. Fortunately, many of our local policymakers have stepped up to take action. This includes the Traverse City Commission, which has committed to powering 100 percent of our municipal buildings on renewable forms of energy by 2020.
Federal legislation that places an increasing fee on emissions is described as “the most powerful instrument to inoculate human health against the risks of climate change” (Lancet). It will take the leadership of brave congresswomen and men like those who have joined the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus to enact such legislation.
Please contact Rep. Bergman to urge him to join the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Our health literally depends on it.
About the author: Elizabeth (Lisa) Del Buono, M.D., is a surgical pathologist practicing at Munson. She volunteers with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and focuses on the Climate and Health Action Team, U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health and Healthcare Without Harm.
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