The Public's Health: Denying Climate Change is Denying Health | Public Health Post

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In recent years a few sentinel issues have become third rails in American culture, dividing us along political lines and becoming touchstones for particular parties. One of these issues is global environmental climate change. The current executive branch embodies the Republican party’s general feeling about climate change, espousing a range of positions from the extreme—the earth is not getting warmer—to one of agency—i.e., even if it is, humans have nothing to do with it.
The science on this issue is largely settled. There is little disagreementamong scientists that the earth is getting warmer. Hence, the political argument is not really about the science as much as it is about priorities. The Republican party—in the past several decades a ceaselessly pro-market party—values deregulation and corporate interests over the potential negative climate consequences of these same interests. 
The question then becomes one of calibrating what we value. If climate change happens slowly and may not affect us for generations to come, how do we make the decision, for example, to limit emissions today? 
This is where health may be a useful part of the conversation. We care about health nearly universally. We invest as a country much more on healthcarethan any other country. Recognizing that our health is being affected by climate change may give us more data than we can use to determine how much we value the behavioral changes that may be necessary to address climate change with full seriousness.
So, does climate change matter to our health? The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. A paper just released shows that unmitigated climate change will result in up to 40,000 additional suicides across the United States and Mexico by 2050. In the last two decades, as a direct result of climate change, the number of natural disasters doubled from approximately 200 to 400 per year, with human costs rising commensurately. The 2017 hurricane season far exceeded any season in the preceding 30 years. The list goes on.
When we recognize that climate change matters for health, we cannot then avoid a discussion of how health is affected in our climate change conversation. If we are to say—as the current administration is saying—that we do not wish to act on climate change, we are accepting that we are compromising our health. Maybe we are fine with that. We suspect that the vast majority of us are not though, and that if we properly weighted the impact of climate change on our health today and in the years not too far ahead, the national conversation on the issue would be different than it is today.
Michael Stein & Sandro Galea