Medical Professionals Report Trump's Ignorance on Climate Change is Damaging Millions
Members of the medical community have just joined climatologists in ringing alarm bells about climate change but not with regard to future concerns. In a major new report just released, medical researchers provide strong interdisciplinary support about health effects currently impacting humans all across the globe.
The Lancet, a highly respected British medical journal, was roundly praised in earlier decades for helping the world to understand the connection between smoking and disease. It documented the cause and effect of smoking-related deaths across the globe. It has further analyzed the impacts of general environmental pollution of air, water, and soil, which it determined is responsible for an estimated nine million premature deaths worldwide per year. And now, this non-advocacy peer-reviewed journal has just completed its analysis of the correlation between what climatologists predicted decades ago would be the adverse effects of climate change and when those effects, if any, would begin to be seen in the human population.
The report cites dozens of examples of how climate change – which it categorizes are a major threat multiplier – is right now damaging human health across the planet. To prepare its analysis, the report tracked 40 indicators of human health, including impacts upon nutrition, air pollution, and disease migration. Nickolas Watts, a fellow at the University College of London’s Institute for Global Health answered the question of how well the world is responding to the current impacts of climate change, “Most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction. The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”
The Lancet finds that anthropogenic or human-caused global warming is now actively undermining the past 50 years of gains in human health. The report is raising alarms within the public health community as it tracks the spread of deadly infectious diseases. The report documents that as the planet warms, certain types of disease-carrying mosquitos have extended their range into far more northern latitudes, resulting in the emergence of illnesses previously limited to tropical areas. Diseases such as Dengue Fever, West Nile Fever, and the Zika virus have broken through into areas (including within the United States) previously limited to tropical climates.
Among other currently occurring health impacts noted in The Lancet Report, between 2000 and 2016 the number of vulnerable adults exposed to unusually severe heat waves increased by 125 million. The number of deaths from unusually extreme floods, storms, and other weather disasters rose 46% between 2007 and 2016 from a similar period in just the last decade from 1990-1999. In the 25 years since 1990, unusually extreme weather events have claimed more than 500,000 lives.
The report documents an increase in climate-related human migration across the globe. This migration is not limited to one type of geographic coastal area. Some occupying low lying areas in Louisiana have already migrated as have others who live in Alaska, where permafrost has melted and sea waters have entered their villages. These migrations are harbingers of a much greater vulnerability. Nearly 600 million people around the globe live within low-lying areas that scientists predict will be eventually inundated by rising sea levels. The potential for massive civil unrest and war pose an existential worldwide threat as hundreds of millions of people will be forced to move into areas occupied by others.
The report also identifies economic damage currently being caused by climate change. It found that outdoor labor capacity in rural areas fell by a stunning 5.3 percent over the past 16 years because of heat stress and related conditions that diminished the ability to perform needed manual work. The report noted that 9 of the 10 hottest years in on record occurred during this period and that in the last two years (the two hottest in recorded history), productivity fell across the globe by a remarkable 2 percent. Of course, the negative impacts being experienced now are mere shadows of what those now alive can expect for their progeny.
In discussing “glimmers of hope,” Watts noted that many countries are moving away from coal-fired power plants, which release immense amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, fueling further negative climate change impacts while simultaneously causing health problems for nearby communities. Watts was heartened by the global response to President’s Trumps decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accords, as no nation followed Trump’s lead and many reaffirmed their commitments to these Accords. Indeed, if the United States actually does withdraw when it is first allowed in 2020, our nation and Syria will be the only two countries in the world to reject the Paris Accords.
(Craig Benedict, a retired federal prosecutor who specialized in environmental litigation, wrote this article.)