Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Views on Health impacts of Climate Change

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science

Climate Change Threatens Health; PSR Promotes Solutions

Climate change is one of the greatest health threats facing humanity in the 21st century. As worldwide patterns of temperature, precipitation and weather events change, the delicate balance of climate and life is disrupted, with serious impacts on food and agriculture, water sources, and health.

Potentially lethal heat waves, extreme storms and rising sea levels contribute to disease, injury and death. Indirect effects of climate change include droughts, floods, worsening air and water pollution, crop damage, and the spread of pest- and waterborne diseases.

Children, the poor, the elderly, and those with a weak or impaired immune system are especially vulnerable.

Climate change contributes to world crises. Changes in temperature and rainfall, rising sea levels and impacts on agriculture have driven people from their homes, creating “climate refugees.”

Causes and solutions

Human activities are the primary cause of global warming and climate destabilization. By burning oil and gas to power our homes, industries and transportation systems, we add carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is now higher than at any point in the last 420,000 years.

Fortunately, because our actions accelerate the problem, our actions can also slow climate change. When we reject dirty fossil fuels and turn instead to energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy sources like wind, waves and sun, we create solutions to this existential threat.

That’s why stopping the use of fossil fuels and promoting healthy, clean renewables are the heart of PSR’s climate action.

PSR: Educating, activating health professionals

PSR educates health professionals about the health consequences of climate change and mobilizes them to respond. Through our national office in Washington, DC and our network of chapters across the country, we:

  • Provide information on climate-related health threats. See Climate Change Health Effects 101, below.
  • Offer resources on the harms to health from coal-fired power plants, coal ash and fracked gas (methane).
  • Promote the health-supportive value of clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Train and prepare health professionals to speak out – writing letters to the editor and op-eds, providing testimony, and educating their elected officials.
  • Engage health professionals in raising the “health voice” on climate- and health-related policies.

Full article