As a pediatrician, I see the effects of climate change on health every day in my clinic. Climate change harms humans through increases in the following: heat related illness, natural disasters, mosquito and tick-borne infectious diseases, air pollution, food insecurity, economic losses, allergens, mental health stresses, and harmful effects on social determinants of health.
To date, over 100 health organizations have stated that climate change is a health emergency (https://climatehealthaction.org/cta/climate-health-equity-policy/). In 2016, air pollution, alone, led to over 64,000 premature deaths in the United States and 7 million premature deaths globally. Climate change impacts are expected to worsen due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions with disproportionate harms affecting children, elderly, people of color, rural populations, people with chronic medical conditions, and economically disadvantaged populations. The 2030 and 2050 energy goals that we hear about are meant to prevent irreversible climate damages. A clock is ticking, and post-COVID rebuilding can help stem the tide of an already harmful climate problem.
Climate change solutions offer the potential to improve the Wisconsin rural and urban economies while also benefiting health. Developer driven, utility-scale wind and solar agreements give farmers options to diversify their land use, allowing them to lock-in competitive fixed income per acre. Increases in renewable energy, when coupled with other PSC-approved financial mechanisms, will save us money that can be reinvested in rural communities or communities where coal and gas power plants are being retired. The healthcare savings alone financially supports making a change to a cleaner energy source.
If you want your children and/or grandchildren to grow up in a healthy environment, please do what you can do to increase the energy efficiency of your home, decrease your energy use (maybe a little less time with electronics?), or continue to drive less post-COVID. Walking or biking more and eating less red meat is a great way to help your own health while also improving the health of our climate for current generations and generations to come.
Climate health is human health, and it affects all of us regardless of political affiliation. Stop the debate of “does it exist,” and instead let’s debate the “how do we fix it.” Let your legislators and the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change know what you think about their goals of achieving equitable climate change solutions (DOAGovernorTaskForceonClimateChange@wisconsin.gov).