The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health

Published date March 15, 2017

MEDICAL ALERT! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health

We—physicians in medical societies representing over half of the nation’s doctors—see a need to share our growing understanding and concern about the health consequences of climate change with all Americans. We believe all Americans should know the following:

1. There is a scientific consensus about human-caused climate change. The reality of human-caused climate change is no longer a matter of debate. Based on the evidence, more than 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. Many studies have proven this fact.

2. In communities across the nation, climate change is harming our health now. Doctors know this because they’re seeing the health of their patients being harmed. Public health professionals know this too, because they’re seeing increasing rates of health problems associated with climate change in their communities. These harms include heat-related illness, worsening chronic illnesses, injuries and deaths from dangerous weather events, infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, illnesses from contaminated food and water, and mental health problems.

3. The health of any American can be harmed by climate change, but some of us face greater risk than others. Children, student athletes, pregnant women, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and allergies, and the poor are more likely to be harmed. 

4. Unless we take concerted action, these harms to our health are going to get much worse. The sooner we take action, the more harm we can prevent, and the more we can protect the health of all Americans.

5. The most important action we can take to protect our health is to reduce heat-trapping pollution by reducing energy waste and accelerating the inevitable transition to clean renewable energy. It is well within our power to accomplish this. Efficient buildings, neighborhoods that support not just automobiles but many ways of getting around, and smart energy policies are all essential and achievable. In addition to limiting climate change, accelerating a transition to clean energy has the added benefit of immediately cleaning up our air and our water so that we can all immediately enjoy better health. Everybody wants clean air and water, and better health.

In sum, we are sounding the alarm that the ultimate danger of climate change is that it poses a danger to the health of every American now and in the future.