Climate change threatens the health of Americans and is having major impacts now, according to a recent report from the Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals. The annual report, called the Lancet Countdown, is a collaboration of researchers from 27 leading academic institutions, the United Nations, and other intergovernmental agencies, who track the impact of climate change on health and progress towards addressing this global public health crisis.
This year’s report emphasizes the impact that extreme heat due to climate change is having on our health globally. Here in the US, extreme heat is worsening chronic conditions, increasing healthcare costs, and contributing to more than 1 billion lost labor hours.
Heat isn’t just something that saps our energy. Research shows that heat waves increase the risk of aggression and violence, suicide, bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and declines in cognitive function. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves.
The new Lancet Countdown report is sounding a clear warning. It joins a chorus of urgent voices calling for immediate action to avert the worse consequences of runaway global climate change. The latest IPCC report, issued in October, warned of a world where food will be scarce, wildfires will rage, and coral reefs will be dead as soon as 22 years from now. It emphasized that the window of opportunity is closing, and estimated that we have just 12 years to take the decisive actions required globally to stave off the worst outcomes of runaway climate change.
In November, the Trump administration tried to hide the Congressionally-mandated report from the interagency US Global Change Research Group, also called the National Climate Assessment, by releasing it on Black Friday. The report predicted and quantified massive declines in the US economy due to climate change by the end of this century, on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, or up to 10% of GDP.
Meanwhile, California reels from the Camp Fire, which raged across hundreds of thousands of acres in November, killing 85 and destroying 14,000 homes. Climate change made it worse, and it’s a harbinger of what’s to come in a warming world.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration turns its back to reality, proposing to scrap pollution rules for coal plants – among our nation’s most significant contributors to carbon dioxide pollution — even as EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler admitted he hadn’t read the National Climate Assessment, authored by his agency’s own scientists, among other government experts. The scientific community is utterly alarmed, and Wheeler hasn’t even read the report issued by his own agency.
I can’t help but think of a child plugging his ears with his own fingers, and saying “I can’t hear you!”
The Lancet Countdown starkly lays out what’s at stake in this willed ignorance: “Humans need clean air, safe water, and vibrant communities in order to thrive, and climate change threatens these foundations of health and well-being.”