We call on Arizona’s Congressional Delegation to lead Congress in recognizing climate change as a health emergency and to prioritize the actions in this Climate and Health Policy Call to Action. Arizona has two cities that are in the Top 4 most vulnerable in the U.S. to climate change. Building healthy energy, transportation, land use, and agriculture systems now will deliver immediate and sustained health benefits to all and reduce future health risks from climate change.
Climate Action For Health should include the following actions:
Meet and strengthen the commitments the U.S. made under the Paris Climate Agreement.
1. Transition rapidly away from the use of coal, oil and natural gas to clean, safe, and renewable energy and energy efficiency.
2. Co-sponsor one or more of the bills filed in the past few weeks by both Democrats and Republicans on climate that are aimed at achieving zero-net emissions by 2050.
3. Support and improve infrastructure to encourage active transportation plans, including more and better options for walking and biking, and incentivize cleaner alternatives like public transit and carpooling, in the transition to zero-carbon transportation systems.
4. Promote healthy, sustainable, organic land management and resilient farms and food systems, forests, and natural lands.
5. Ensure that all U.S. residents have access to safe and affordable drinking water and a clean, sustainable water supply.
6. Invest in policies that support a just transition for workers and communities adversely impacted by climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
7. Sign a treaty for nuclear abolition.
8. Protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
It is past time for our political leaders to recognize climate change as a public health emergency. Finding ways to mitigate climate change and its negative effects should be a top priority, and action needs to start now.
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR URGENT ACTION
Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to human health in our lifetimes. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly issued warnings about the significant consequences of global warming. As they and the vast majority of climate scientists around the world have stated, urgent actions are needed now to curb the rise in global temperatures and to prevent ecological, public health and other societal catastrophes.¹
In Arizona, we are already feeling the effects of increasing temperatures and climate-related emergencies. In the coming years, Arizonans will experience rising temperatures, increasing wildfires, more frequent and severe droughts, and worsening air pollution leading to premature death from heart and lung disease.²
As physicians and healthcare professionals, we see the impacts of climate change first-hand:
1. Climate change affects every aspect of what we do. It impedes our ability to care for patients and causes health crises where none previously existed.
2. Our ER physicians are the front-line doctors for climate change – they are the ones who have to care for folks when climate disasters occur such as heat, toxins in the environment, pollution- related health issues and wildfires.
3. Our primary care physicians and cardiologists have to deal with increased and worsening heart disease due to ozone action days and increased heat.
4. Psychiatrists have to deal with fatalism and depression that occurs with the increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters.
5. We all struggle to care for patients affected by increasing pandemics and other health crises.
1. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2018