WHO, Lancet Reports Confirm It: Tackling Climate Change Improves Public Health

“Climate change is killing our patients,” WPSR physicians write op-ed in Seattle Times.

Image credit: Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

New reports from The Lancet medical journal, a World Health Organization study, and the recently published US Climate Assessment confirm what Washington healthcare providers are already seeing: climate change is hurting our patients.  

Both reports detail striking health consequences of climate change with impacts in the Pacific Northwest. They find that actions to reduce global warming emissions will dramatically benefit health, from reducing air pollution to protecting those at risk of disease. “From the devastating smoke pollution caused by wildfires this year this summer to extreme heat stress, our patients are suffering the health consequences of climate change” said Dr. Mark Vossler, a cardiologist in Kirkland, Washington and Chair of the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR) Climate & Health Task Force. “The findings of this report demonstrate the need for physicians and nurses to get out of the exam room and in to offices of our legislators.”

Health professionals in Washington are already mobilized to take action on climate change. An unprecedented medical coalition representing thousands of Washington physicians and nurses endorsed the carbon fee ballot initiative, I-1631. Medical providers have been key players in coalitions that have successfully resisted construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure and will advocate for statewide emissions-reducing policies next year in Olympia.

“As physicians called to prevent what we cannot cure, this report confirms that it is our duty to do everything we can to ensure a livable future for our communities and our patients,” said Dr. Anita Peñuelas, family physician and WPSR Climate & Health Task Force member.

“As a physician, I and my colleagues know from the medical evidence and from seeing patients in our everyday practices, that air pollution and climate change — human-caused climate change — hurt real people right now,” said Dr. Ken Lans, WPSR President. “To protect everyone’s health, we must stop using the atmosphere as an open sewer, dumping huge amounts of pollution right into the air that we, and our children, need to breath.”