Earth Day's Untold Story: Climate Change & Human Health
by Matthew C. Nisbet
A Federal inter-agency report released today reviews eleven key categories of diseases and other health consequences that are occurring or will occur due to climate change. The report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, provides a starting point for coordination of federal research to better understand climate's impact on human health. The recommendations of the working group include research to identify who will be most vulnerable, and what efforts will be most beneficial.
Not only does this report call attention to objectively serious risks of climate change, but on Earth Day, it also represents an important re-framing of climate change away from being defined as an environmental problem to one that extends to human health. As I noted last year at the journal Environment, reframing climate change as a public health problem potentially makes the complex issue more personally relevant by drawing connections to already familiar problems such as asthma, allergies, and infectious disease, while shifting the visualization of the issue away from remote arctic regions, peoples, and animals to more socially proximate neighbors and places such as suburbs and cities. In the process, the new focus is inclusive of the need for not just mitigation but also adaptation actions, while also bringing additional trusted communication partners into the fold on climate change, notably public health officials and leaders from minority and low-income communities who are the most at risk and the most vulnerable.
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