Combating EPA Rollbacks – Health Care’s Response to a Retreat on Climate

The world’s climate crisis has spared no one. Science tells us that the harms of climate change will worsen with time if we fail to take substantial actions now to reduce carbon pollution. In the United States, the growing burden of atmospheric carbon pollution has already fueled searing heat waves that have triggered bouts of asthma, heart attacks, and kidney failure. It has unleashed unprecedented rains in the Midwest that have jeopardized health for thousands of people. It has stoked wildfires in the West that have taken lives, razed homes and hospitals, and sent toxic plumes of smoke across the continent. And it has fueled powerful hurricanes, like Maria and Harvey, that have enfeebled hospitals and clinics and forced rationing of critical medical supplies such as IV fluids nationwide.

Burning fossil fuels generates roughly 80% of our country’s carbon pollution and the bulk of other air pollutants known to cause or exacerbate a host of ailments, including everything from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke to lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, pneumonia, and possibly even dementia. Actions that reduce carbon pollution often offer important opportunities to reduce conventional air pollution and save lives and health care costs, with benefits that tend to accrue in greater shares to the poor and people of color, because they bear the brunt of air pollution from fossil fuels.

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