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Climate Change Threatens Health; PSR Promotes Solutions

Climate change is one of the greatest health threats facing humanity in the 21st century. As worldwide patterns of temperature, precipitation and weather events change, the delicate balance of climate and life is disrupted, with serious impacts on food and agriculture, water sources, and health.

Potentially lethal heat waves, extreme storms and rising sea levels contribute to disease, injury and death. Indirect effects of climate change include droughts, floods, worsening air and water pollution, crop damage, and the spread of pest- and waterborne diseases.

Children, the poor, the elderly, and those with a weak or impaired immune system are especially vulnerable.

Climate change contributes to world crises. Changes in temperature and rainfall, rising sea levels and impacts on agriculture have driven people from their homes, creating “climate refugees.”

Causes and solutions

Human activities are the primary cause of global warming and climate destabilization. By burning oil and gas to power our homes, industries and transportation systems, we add carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is now higher than at any point in the last 420,000 years.

Fortunately, because our actions accelerate the problem, our actions can also slow climate change. When we reject dirty fossil fuels and turn instead to energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy sources like wind, waves and sun, we create solutions to this existential threat.

That’s why stopping the use of fossil fuels and promoting healthy, clean renewables are the heart of PSR’s climate action.

PSR: Educating, activating health professionals

PSR educates health professionals about the health consequences of climate change and mobilizes them to respond. Through our national office in Washington, DC and our network of chapters across the country, we:

  • Provide information on climate-related health threats. See Climate Change Health Effects 101, below.
  • Offer resources on the harms to health from coal-fired power plants, coal ash and fracked gas (methane).
  • Promote the health-supportive value of clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Train and prepare health professionals to speak out – writing letters to the editor and op-eds, providing testimony, and educating their elected officials.
  • Engage health professionals in raising the “health voice” on climate- and health-related policies.


Latest Resource

Heat, Fire, Water: How Climate Change Has Created a Public Health Emergency
August 2019
Extreme heat, billowing wildfires, and water–either too much or not enough–are today’s faces of climate change. PSR board member Alan Lockwood, MD, FAAN profiles the health effects of these frightening phenomena in this new white paper. Download here.

FAQ: Top-10 Facts on Climate Change and Health
Partner Resources

PSR periodically partners with other organizations to create and share resources on climate change and health. Below, we provide links to recent materials from Partner organizations.

Concerned Health Professionals of New York. CHPNY created and is the lead writer of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction). PSR proudly partners with CHPNY to write, edit and disseminate the Compendium.

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction), Sixth edition. An almost encyclopedic compilation of reports, peer-reviewed articles and investigative reporting on fracking’s dangerous impacts on health. The Compendium provides brief summaries of each and links to the original source document.

ecoAmerica. Through its “Climate for Health” program, ecoAmerica partners with leading U.S. health associations and organizations to make climate change a top national health priority. As part of that partnership, PSR is pleased to share the following resources:

Moving Forward: A Guide for Health Professionals to Build Momentum on Climate Action
Guidance and tools to reduce energy use, to build resilient clinics and health departments, and advocate for climate solutions that prioritize health and equity.

Messaging on the Climate Emergency. PSR partnered with ecoAmerica to present this webinar examining how to convey the severe threats that climate change poses, without driving people into either denial or despair. Watch here.

Let’s Talk Health & Climate. Communication Guidance for Health Professionals. This 2016 ecoAmerica report synthesizes academic research and message testing on climate communications into a practical guide to support meaningful discussion of climate change and health with individuals and groups.

Webinar, Let’s Talk Health & Climate.

Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. This ecoAmerica report examines the effects of climate change on the mental health of individuals, communities, and society, with special attention to issues of equity.

Webinar, Mental Health and our Changing Climate.

Additional research reports by ecoAmerica are available here.

U.S. Climate & Health Alliance. This network is helping to circulate and promote the U.S. Call to Action on Climate, Health & Equity.

U.S. Call to Action on Climate, Health & Equity. A broad policy action agenda for addressing climate change. It calls on government, business, civil society leaders, elected officials, and candidates for office to recognize climate change as a health emergency and to take action across a wide range of sectors.