When we envision the impacts of climate change many of us think of small islands in distant places. We don't always associate colder regions with global warming. In New England, projections are for average temperatures to rise 10 degrees by the year 2101. This additional heat will affect air pollution, worsen asthma, increase groundwater pollution (from increased rainfall and runoff), and cause a host of other health problems. A 2014 assessment about climate-change preparedness in the region concluded that most local health departments in Massachusetts felt "unprepared, under-resourced and that they lack expertise to address various health issues posed by climate variability.” This may be why a 2014 survey of municipal health departments in Massachusetts revealed a surprising lack of attention to the impacts of climate change, as ecoRI News reports below. It's time for climate change to become part of medical education. Otherwise, we're part of the problem. Join us and take action by engaging with other health leaders and creating climate solutions.
By Tim Faulkner I January 18, 2016
Climate-change reports in Rhode Island and Massachusetts address most of the essential health topics. But there is a significant difference in how the states are implementing changes and addressing inadequacies.
In Massachusetts, a 2014 report recognizes that climate change burdens residents as well as state and local agencies. The average temperature is projected to increase 10 degrees by 2101. Days above 90 degrees are expected to increase six times; days above 100 degrees are projected to increase 10 times. The elderly, low-income families and the sick are the most likely to suffer from this additional heat.
Health officials say a lack of air conditioning and vegetation make matters worse. Heat intensifies air pollution and prompts asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. Increased rainfall increases runoff that carries toxic chemicals and pathogens, polluting groundwater and swimming areas.
Floods and extreme rainstorms spawn harmful mold in buildings, which creates respiratory illnesses and mental disorders. Extreme weather and drought outside of cities impair crops and fisheries. Higher food prices follow, squeezing the budgets of older and low-income groups. Also, damaged caused to infrastructure costs taxpayers.
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