Climate Change Isn’t Just a Global Threat—It’s a Public Health Emergency

Photo by Harry Campbell (TIME)

Article by Adam Hermann, via TIME

There can be no discussion about climate change without a meaningful conversation about public health. As leading health experts have affirmed, the climate crisis is a threat multiplier, particularly for communities suffering from environmental injustice. For example, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, published in 2018 by a collaboration among 13 U.S. scientific agencies, highlights how higher temperatures, severe weather events and rising seas can contribute to heat-related cardiopulmonary illness, infectious disease and mental-health issues. Societal factors such as poverty, discrimination, access to health care and pre-existing health conditions make some populations even more vulnerable.

Thousands of communities nationwide—often low-income or with many residents of color—that already face environmental risks constantly grapple with issues that others seldom encounter with the same intensity. These include exposure to air pollutants (like particulate matter and soot produced from burning fossil fuels) or soil and water contamination (caused by dumping coal ash or lead in the water supply). These same communities tend to be systematically targeted when corporations and regulators decide where to build hazardous-waste sites, power plants and waste incinerators. It doesn’t help that these populations often lack access to fresh produce, health insurance, affordable homes, public transportation and economic opportunities.

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