ecoAmerica’s most recent contribution to the National Environmental Health Association’s Journal of Environmental Health, “Climate Changes Mental Health” is now available in the July 2022 issue.
Well, this is not unusual. Researchers from ecoAmerica have found that most Americans are concerned about climate change (75%) according to their recent “American Climate Perspective Survey 2022, Volume 1” report. Not only does climate change have a profound impact on the environment(s) we call home, but it is a psychological burden for the communities that face its impacts every day.
In this episode of Let’s Talk Climate co-hosted by the Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environments (ANHE), we hear from two nurse leaders about how nurses across the US are engaging with climate change where they live and work.
The epigraph from Katharine Hayhoe’s book Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World captivates because it both provides us with a prescription for how to connect with our respective communities around the issue of climate change but also invites us to look inward to consider the parts of ourselves we can draw on to form the foundation of this connection. As I reflect on some of the formative experiences of my own life (and the writing I have used to process these experiences), I am thrilled to realize how each may permit me to relate — in some small way — to how others are affected by the climate crisis. Indeed, as Dr. Hayhoe reminds us — every person, everywhere will feel some part of the ruination climate change precipitates.
The May 2022 installment of the Let’s Talk Climate series highlights the critical importance of healthy pregnancies and sound minds as we navigate our environmental challenges. Dr. Cathy Jordan explains how climate change endangers the mental wellbeing of ourselves and our children, and Climate for Health Fellow Bruce Bekkar provides an update on threats to healthy birth outcomes from heat and air pollution. They conclude on a hopeful note, highlighting how we can access the healing powers of nature and other ways to protect patients, ourselves and our families from climate change.
On Thursday, April 21, 2022, a panel of climate champions from across the US joined us to share their unique approaches to local action that centers equity. From bringing students together from medical schools around the country and internationally to demand climate-centered curricula, to academics collaborating with national non-profits and grass-roots activists, their stories illustrate the power of engaging where you live.
The current and projected health outcomes of climate change-related events have catapulted climate and health to the forefront of public health worldwide and highlighted the urgent need for resources and educational materials that inspire, empower, and encourage public health leaders and community members to take action. In response to this need, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), has updated and developed resources for local health departments in the United States that promote climate and health, a crucial public health issue and health equity effort.
The 11th annual American Climate Leadership Summit has just completed, featuring dynamic and inspiring leaders from climate-centered nonprofits, local and national political offices, faith organizations, media, researchers, and student groups. Day 3 was the National Health + Climate Forum, providing updates on both physical and mental impacts, equity, and actions health professionals are taking to better care for patients and motivate policymakers to make needed changes.
In this unique blog post, Climate for Health Ambassador Dr. Kristin Hampshire and her daughter Karly, currently at UC San Francisco School of Medicine, share their joint purpose and passion for engaging with our climate crisis.
ecoAmerica’s most recent contribution to the National Environmental Health Association’s Journal of Environmental Health, “Climate Change: Everyone, Every Day” is now available in the March 2022 issue.
If you follow the polls on climate change, you will discover something interesting: 74% of people in the U.S. are concerned about climate change, with 46% saying they are very concerned. When you ask them if others around them are concerned, however, only 23% say others around them are very concerned. That is one-half the number of people who are actually very concerned about this issue (ecoAmerica, 2020). The gap in actual versus perceived climate concern contributes to inaction on the issue and points to the increasingly urgent need for visible climate leadership and engagement. While 74% of respondents say they are concerned about climate change, 6% report that they hear people they know talking about climate change at least once per week and 13% say it is once a month. That leaves 81% who speak about it a few times a year or less (Leiserowitz et al., 2021). Why, if so concerned about climate change, don’t people talk about it?
On Friday, February 18, a panel of leaders came together to bring to light the current state of the science on climate change and mental health. This webinar was co-hosted by the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health, GWSPH Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, GW Climate & Health Institute, ecoAmerica, and Climate for Health. Together, the speakers discussed how this public health threat is being addressed in clinical practice and societal solutions.
ecoAmerica’s most recent contribution to the National Environmental Health Association’s Journal of Environmental Health, “Climate Change: Everyone, Every Day” is now available in the March 2022 issue.
If you follow the polls on climate change, you will discover something interesting: 74% of people in the U.S. are concerned about climate change, with 46% saying they are very concerned. When you ask them if others around them are concerned, however, only 23% say others around them are very concerned. That is one-half the number of people who are actually very concerned about this issue (ecoAmerica, 2020). The gap in actual versus perceived climate concern contributes to inaction on the issue and points to the increasingly urgent need for visible climate leadership and engagement. While 74% of respondents say they are concerned about climate change, 6% report that they hear people they know talking about climate change at least once per week and 13% say it is once a month. That leaves 81% who speak about it a few times a year or less (Leiserowitz et al., 2021). Why, if so concerned about climate change, don’t people talk about it?
Science communicators are making original, entertaining, and educational content that is reshaping the climate narrative and empowering people to feel hopeful about their future, their health, and their planet. They are using social media for good by combating misinformation and inspiring others to take action.
Ella Niederhelman is a freelance journalist at the Ipswich Local News and a student at Ipswich High School. Niederhelman was certified in October 2021 as a Climate Ambassador with Harvard T.H. Chan C-CHANGE and Climate for Health after attending the inaugural Harvard Chan C-CHANGE youth climate summer this summer. In today’s blog, Ella talks about what it means to her to have grown up in a small coastal town surrounded by rich ecosystems and her call to climate action.
Last year was difficult for many reasons, and with multiple COVID-19 variants, wildfires, extreme winter storms, record-breaking heat waves, and the third-most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, many of us are understandably more concerned than ever about what the future holds for our climate and the health of our most vulnerable communities. With all of these cumulative impacts weighing on our mental health, it’s so necessary that we find hope together so we can move forward and continue this fight. Luckily, there are advocates across this country giving us just that.
The first Let’s Talk Climate episode of the year gave us lots of hope and inspiration through the topic, “Welcoming 2022 with Climate Optimism” with our guests Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, Director of the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education at Columbia University and Dr. Jay Lemery, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine & co-Director of the Climate & Health Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
As a Global Health nurse interested in improving health worldwide, I am guided in part by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and recognize that advancing all 17 of them contributes to the single goal of Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3) for all. Because SDG 13, Climate Action, is particularly linked to SDG 3, I was excited to register for the Climate for Health Ambassador Training offered at an upcoming nursing conference that I’d planned to attend. As advertised, the ambassador training prepared me with knowledge and tools for better climate advocacy. Since completing the training, my awareness of the impact of planetary health to human health has grown exponentially and confirmed my resolve to take action for climate change solutions. These are my top 3 climate action resolutions for 2022.
At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, the U.S. recommitted to necessary and ambitious climate goals. Political trade winds may threaten climate-smart policies, but in this season of reflection, renewal, and resolutions, we find reasons for hope. Health leaders can continue seizing the greatest opportunity of the century by working to: build workforce capacity, build community resilience, and reverse the drivers of climate change. We also must continue fighting for strong climate policies that improve our health.
In the last Let’s Talk Climate episode of 2021, The Planetary Health Alliance co-hosted a great discussion with Climate for Health about global initiatives and local actions that advance climate solutions for planetary health. Just in the fourth quarter of 2021, we saw the launch of the São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health, The Lancet Countdown 2021 report, and COP26. All of these initiatives are framed at a global scale and highlight the urgent need for climate and planetary health solutions that eliminate carbon emissions, restore natural systems, and center justice and equity. So what does this mean for our neighborhoods and communities, and how can we use these frameworks for bold action in 2022? Watch the full episode to find out.
Our most recent Let’s Talk Climate episode features lead authors of a recent special article in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics to hear more about the impacts of climate change on human reproduction and the urgent need for action to improve health. Join lead authors Santosh Pandipati, MD, Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at O’Connor Hospital and Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, Director, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at University of California San Francisco to learn more about the strong call for bold climate action from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).
As a response to these climate-related threats, the Climate Ready Tribes Initiative (CRT), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was developed at the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) with the overall goal of building Tribal capacity related to climate health. This work includes increasing Tribal capacity to recognize and respond to climate threats, by providing support to take action, and working with Tribes to develop climate change responses that are localized and effective for their unique environment. Other activities to support this work includes hosting a Climate and Health Learning Community to share resources and connect individuals and organizations through information sharing. NIHB and Climate for Health are partnering throughout November for National Native American Heritage Month to amplify Tribal leadership on climate solutions.
While climate change is a global issue, each place experiences its impacts differently and is worthy of inquiry. People are bonded to place through a dynamic bond (since places and people are constantly evolving). Climate change poses a major threat to this connection. Residents of Hawaiʻi are deeply connected to their place and are therefore also highly attuned to the risks posed to their environment and community. Their intricate understanding of the environment translates to an almost innate recognition of the changes that the land is undergoing.
The American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica are pleased to offer Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. It shares the latest and best knowledge on the many ways that climate change impacts mental health individually and community-wide, how structural inequities cause certain populations to be impacted first and worst, and the spectrum of solutions available to build resilience, strengthen care, and inspire engagement for transformative progress. It is intended to further inform and empower health and medical professionals, community and elected leaders, and the public to understand and act on solutions to climate change that will support mental health and well-being.
How many times a day do you think about wetlands? Probably not too much. But you might after reading this piece. Wetlands are vibrant ecosystems that not only host and support some of the richest interactions between animal life and the planet, but also store one of the less well known keys to solving the climate change crises and health challenges we face as a society. In other words, we need wetlands for our health and future! Nature and health are inextricably linked. Accessible green and blue spaces including coastal wetlands have been vanishing due to poor coastal and urban planning over the years. We have a unique opportunity to help save these important areas for our kids and grandkids by highlighting and advocating for the important health benefits they serve. We can all advocate for local climate solutions that improve health.
The 2021 Lancet Countdown U.S. Brief was released on October 21, 2021. In our most recent Let’s Talk Climate episode, we were joined by three pediatricians – Dr. Lisa Patel, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford School of Medicine; Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Emory University – who were on the writing team to discuss key findings, and using this recent dataset to advocate for children’s health in a changing climate. This fun, inspiring, and motivational conversation covered youth advocacy on climate, medical training, and engaging your colleagues on climate, health, and equity.
It is not news that each year millions of people around the world experience mental health illness. In coping with a global pandemic, and more frequent extreme weather events, our need to care for our children and their well-being is of greatest importance. The question remains, are we doing enough to act boldly and quickly on equitable climate solutions that will ensure the future we want for our children? And, what are we doing now to support children’s mental health in the face of existing changes to our climate?
Over the past 8 months, the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP), has presented a series of symposia on mitigating the impact of the climate crisis on children and youth. The multidisciplinary speakers from around the world, including youth, provided a clear and consistent message—there is little hope for a solution without a radical transformation of society, which must begin today. Youth delivered a poignant message, a plea that continues to resonate. The role they suggested that professional child health organizations can play is to provide them a platform to support their efforts, and access to the decision-makers who can make the changes necessary to mitigate the crisis. They didn’t ask us to craft the message, but to help them deliver it.
Almost ten years ago, I met Ms. Loretta Slater who had just lost her only daughter, Whitney, to breast cancer at the age of 21, after battling the disease for two years. Ms. Loretta often shares the story of how her daughter was raised in one of the countless environmental justice communities. She often talks about the conditions of the area in which Whitney was raised, and she believes that this contributed to her daughter’s illness and passing. Whitney was raised in Darlington, SC, where she lived across the street from an oil mill, and less than a quarter mile away from a sawmill. Whitney’s story is just one of many in which we see how the pollutants and toxins contributing to climate impacts also adversely affect the health of children living in environmental justice communities.
When the city of Phoenix partnered with Paideia Academies on a green infrastructure project, they anticipated some of the outcomes — like decreased pollutant levels and safer conditions for outdoor play — but the benefits of the project reached far beyond what was anticipated.
Climate change isn’t coming for our children- It’s here. With the newly released UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, issuing a ‘code red for humanity,’ and recent headlining wildfires, floods, and other climate-change-related tragedies, the need to act on climate has never been more urgent. As Deputy Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), I love that I can find common ground with almost everyone about the importance of protecting children’s health. Children’s wellbeing is a compelling and unifying value that drives collective action, especially climate action and climate justice advocacy.
Well designed, implemented, and communicated initiatives can be like a pebble in a pond. They can ripple out to affect initiatives by other environmental health professionals, organizations, and communities, ultimately leading to national impact. All environmental health professionals can amplify their impact by broadening their perspectives and outreach.
Doctors know how to fight disease to keep their patients safe. From infectious disease to preventing strokes, they are constantly trying to stay ahead of the next big health risk. But what happens when the climate starts making patients sick? How can modern medicine even approach a problem as big as climate change and what it could mean for our patients? In this episode of Let’s Talk Climate, we discuss just that.
Children’s Environmental Health Day is an annual celebration of children’s environmental health successes and a day to raise the visibility of issues and challenges in the field. It’s also a day to drive collective action to address the big challenges facing our little ones. In a special episode of Let’s Talk Climate, Climate for Health Director, Rebecca Rehr, sat down with Hannah Grose, Program Assistant at the Children’s Environmental Health Network to talk about Children’s Environmental Health Day Proclamations as tools for Climate Action.
Nurses are the most trusted leaders on climate solutions. As the 2021 school year starts, we have an incredible opportunity to support youth leadership on climate action, and incorporate climate education and health equity into curricula. Tune into this episode of Let’s Talk Climate, co-hosted with the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) with special guest host, Dr. Katie Huffling, Executive Director of ANHE, as she is joined by Linda Mendonça, an ANHE Environmental Health Nurse Fellow 2019-2020 and President of the National Association of School Nurses and Andrea Lapuz, member of the ANHE Student Nurse Committee and active member of the National Student Nurses’ Association.
On Monday, August 30, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE). This is the first national office to address climate change and health equity as its core mission, and was created in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. ecoAmerica’s Executive Director, Meighen Speiser, said of the announcement, “The HHS establishment of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is a historic and exciting moment. We know Americans are personally concerned about climate change, and trust health leaders for information. We applaud the Biden Administration’s approach to lead climate solutions with health equity, and will be keeping an eye on the office’s activities and accomplishments to accelerate climate action.” And Climate for Health Leadership Circle Members reacted to this announcement with enthusiasm for the elevation of climate change as a top priority for HHS, and for the framing of equity as the core of climate solutions.
This week, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released the first two pieces in its new series of case studies that examine efforts by states or localities to conceptualize and implement climate-adaptation policies and programs that center equity. TFAH aims to help make health equity a foundational principle of policymaking at all levels, including in climate policies. The series is meant to spotlight and spread awareness of useful models for peer practitioners to tailor and emulate in their own locations, as well as inspire additional ideas. It’s organized around two primary dimensions of equity: (1) procedural equity, which relates to the inclusiveness and accessibility of the process employed to conceptualize, design, and administer programs; and (2) distributional equity, which relates to the level of fairness in allocating program benefits and burdens.
Climate change offers healthcare providers “the greatest opportunity to redefine the social and environmental determinants of health” in the 21st century. Medical schools and graduate medical education programs can empower physicians to take this on by ensuring their curricula include robust, structured and practical advocacy training. There is no time like the present.
This special episode of Let’s Talk Climate digs into research from the Environmental Defense Fund that explores the local impacts of air pollution, and the resultant health disparities. Dr. Elena Craft, Senior Director of Climate and Health, outlines findings, and provides examples for climate action that improves air quality & increases health equity.
For researchers at the Center for Health, Work and Environment (CHWE) at the Colorado School of Public Health, the connection between climate, work, and health is hitting especially close to home. With climate challenges at home and abroad in mind, CHWE researchers are embarking on a new venture to directly address the intersection between climate, work, and human health by launching the Climate, Work and Health Initiative (CWHI). CWHI’s research focuses on the intersection of the workplace environment and consequences of climate change including heat, air pollution, altered precipitation patterns and water resources, and wildfires. The work of CHWE and CWHI at the University of Colorado is finding that this local-global balance is not just the right thing to do – it’s opening doors for richer partnerships, better science, and climate solutions that are replicable in localities across the world.
Engaging with our climate emergency can feel overwhelming at times. To do our best work, we all need to prioritize self-care every day. Bruce Bekkar, MD, provides 10 ideas to help us all care for ourselves to care for the planet.
As health care professionals, we have a unique understanding of how the health of people, communities, and the planet are interconnected – and the stories that prove it. Through our work, we see the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice — not merely in numbers, graphs and statistics, but in the faces and stories of the patients we care for. Health Care Without Harm recently published a visual storytelling guide designed to help us effectively use strategic storytelling and maximize the impact of our messages as we advocate for climate action. Read more to learn about this new resource.
In the spirit of the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Annual Educational Conference theme, “Together a Safer and Healthier Tomorrow,” we co-hosted our most recent Let’s Talk Climate episode with NEHA with the same topic. Our guests, Natasha DeJarnett, PhD, MPH, & Steven Konkel, PhD, MCP joined us to discuss the environmental health role in climate action and solutions, diversifying the environmental health workforce, and advice for students entering the environmental health field.
The time is now to invest in our communities and build equitable, sustainable climate solutions. Solutions that have benefits that will last decades longer than our attention spans. We know what we need to do, and we need to build the drumbeat to make it happen.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and ecoAmerica hosted the virtual National Children’s Health and Climate Leadership Forum in October 2020 to: 1. Share information, ideas, opportunities and best practices in addressing children’s health and wellbeing amidst increasing impacts of climate change; 2. Increase awareness and inspire action on climate change and children’s health; and 3. Build leadership, capacity, and collaboration to address just and equitable solutions that prioritize children’s health and youth engagement. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. Thank you for taking this on… We all have an important role to play in protecting children.” — V. “Fan” Tait, MD, FAAP
In a recent article, Krystal Vasquez, PhD Candidate at the California Institute of Technology, wrote about her experience studying air pollution from wildfires and her experience as a disabled researcher. She wrote, “while the fires themselves don’t discriminate, there are systems in place that do.” Krystal joined Climate for Health Director, Rebecca Rehr, and Adriane Griffen, Senior Director of Public Health and Leadership at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), to discuss disability rights as an important tenet of environmental justice, climate solutions, and disaster planning. You can watch their full conversation now.
The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has published seven fact sheets for our Climate and Health Program, includinge air quality, drought, extreme heat, extreme storms, floods, vectors, and wildfires – each of which effects of climate change with critical impacts on environmental health.
Listen to your mother! The age-old saying can be true for advice on balancing work and home life, getting over a cold, on losing a loved one, and increasingly on how to act on climate. Last month, we were joined by three phenomenal moms in the climate movement for a Let’s Talk Climate episode that provided a range of ideas for getting involved in climate action, talking to your kids about climate change, electing climate champions, and building equity into climate solutions.
As the mother of two, and a faculty member at the Mercer University School of Medicine, personal experience with air pollution, allergies and health led Dr. Jennifer Barkin to launch a new, but related, line of investigation. She broadened her research program, originally focused on postpartum maternal functioning and mood, to include a line of inquiry centered on the effects of climate change on maternal and child mental health. Her lab recently conducted an examination of the effects of Extreme Weather Events (EWEs) on child mental health and behavior. Read more to see what they found.
In October of 2017, I had a panic attack as ash and smoke rained down on California’s Bay Area. Days before, winds at the rate of a car speeding down the freeway, picked up and catapulted embers from brush fires into Sonoma County. For many Californians and their families, panic turned to grief, part of a pattern that continues year after year across the world, as the intensity, frequency, and damage of extreme climate events increases. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are channeling these feelings into the fight of their lives: an urgent, radical, and necessary shift in how we approach the climate crisis and how we relate to our ecological world. In this vein, part of my work at the Well Being Trust (WBT), an impact philanthropy that focuses on advancing the nation’s mental, social, and spiritual health, is to amplify messages and policies at the intersection of climate change, social justice, and mental health.
For the special Let’s Talk Climate episode, “The Biden-Harris Administration’s First 100 Days: How Did they Fare on Climate, Health, and Equity?” Climate for Health Director, Rebecca Rehr, was joined by Jessica Wolff, U.S. director of climate and health at Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, and Kineta Sealey, Policy Counsel at the Black Women’s Health Imperative.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In 2021, NAMI will continue with the theme “You Are Not Alone” for Mental Health Awareness Month. This has become an incredibly important and resonant message for us in the past year. That’s a message we also use in climate communications. You are not alone. Majorities of Americans, 74%, are concerned about climate change, with 45% being very concerned. But when you ask those same people whether others around them are concerned, few think others around them are concerned. In fact, it’s about half in that “very concerned” category. What this means is that people feel alone in their concern about climate, which limits their willingness to act. We can be part of climate solutions by talking to others about climate solutions and building the connections between climate, health, and equity.
In celebration of April being Earth Month, and with Earth Day coming up on Thursday, we’re excited to be discussing a program focused on creating leaders for climate solutions. The program, Climate for Health, was founded by ecoAmerica, and NRPA has partnered with them to bring the initiative to park and recreation professionals.
coAmerica’s most recent contribution to the National Environmental Health Association’s Journal of Environmental Health, “Denial: Our Biggest Environmental Health Threat?” was published in the May 2021 issue.
Energy decisions can be deeply personal. We need to listen to households and communities before we prescribe their energy transition.
Over 100 health professionals and organizations are supporting new Climate, Health, and Equity Recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services.
This election season has been filled with reports showing the widening partisan divide in America. Opinion gaps are growing on topics such as poor and disadvantaged communities, the size of government, corporations, military, immigration or other key social issues. Climate change has been no stranger to partisanship. So, how does the topic of climate change fare in America today? Is the issue as divisive as people seem to think it is?
This month, ecoAmerica’s American Climate Perspectives Survey begins to answers these questions in the first of a two-part series called Climate as a Voting Issue. Here are a few key highlights from the survey:
Find, read and download the full report HERE.
And, return next month for Part 2 of the Climate as a Voting Issue series. In October, we will cover American awareness and attitudes on candidates’ climate stance, and whether or not they intend to vote for candidates that support climate change solutions.
And, for helpful guides on talking about climate change in your community, check ecoAmerica’s ongoing Talking Points series, where we make Starting The Conversation, discussing Clean Energy, connecting Climate and Caring for Our Children, and conversing about Climate in your Community easy and effective!
Louisiana is known as a sportsman’s paradise, Florida is vacationland and, as we all know, everything is bigger in Texas.
Unfortunately, that can be a problem, as some of the things that have been bigger lately have threatened vacation spots, sportsman’s favorite escapes, and residents in all three states; as well as the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere in and around the Gulf of Mexico.
What is the cause of this destruction? Climate change.
As the global temperature rises, so too do tides; water levels; heat indexes; fire risks; hurricane velocity, ferocity, and frequency; and other elements of natural life that can have an enormous impact on both the natural and the built environment. Extreme weather conditions and their destructive fallout can also negatively impact people’s physical, emotional, and psychological health.
Noted psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that shelter is among humanity’s most pressing and vital needs. What happens, then, if even this basic necessity is threatened by forces that are beyond humanity’s control, but not within its ability to respond to them?
As many scientists are already claiming that we have crossed the climatic Rubicon and cannot stop climate change, we need to focus more attention on where we can preserve the existing built environment, while mitigating the additional impacts that climate change is bringing.
Among the steps that we can take, to preserve the built environment, are:
By making simple changes today, and planning for and encouraging more changes in the future, we may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done, but we can minimize and mitigate any future challenges and extend our lifespan, both as a generation and as a species.
What’s the best way to make the connection between extreme weather and climate change? ecoAmerica’s August Talking Points can help. Download yours today.
Felix I. Zemel, MCP, MPH, DrPH(c), CBO, RS, DAAS, Principal, Pracademic Solutions is the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Climate Change Committee Co-Chair. NEHA is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.
Everywhere we turn it seems we bump up against something political. The news we watch, the athletes we support and even the restaurants where we eat are all increasingly viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Climate change has been viewed similarly, but we have an opportunity to bridge the divide.
When it comes to trying to engage climate skeptics, too many scientists and advocates fall into the trap of debating the science — believing that just one more fact, one more chart, one more anecdote about the causes and consequences of climate change will persuade them. Alas, this approach falls short.
So for those who care about climate change, about creating happier and healthier communities, what is there to do?
Based on our research, we came up with 5 simple rules for climate advocacy in an era of intense political polarization. This guidance will help you feel more comfortable speaking to issues all Americans care about, while avoiding nasty debates that go nowhere.
1. Lead by Example: People are inspired when they see others taking action. Show them that climate action can come with a spectrum of benefits. Carpool, bike more often, or switch to hybrid or electric vehicles to decrease climate pollution while increasing health and dollars in the bank. There are a number of local, state, and federal programs that help lower the cost of all electric vehicles. Switch to clean energy. Weatherize. Vote. There are dozens of solutions that are accessible, affordable, and immediately beneficial.
2. Be Human, Relevant, Positive, Supportive, and Solutions Oriented: The goal of climate advocacy is to inspire others to take action. Connect with people personally, and highlight shared values and common ground. Inspire them to care by being positive, supportive, and solutions oriented. Listen as much as you speak.
3. Stick to the Basics: When it comes to climate advocacy — keep it simple and clear. We have everything we need to stop damaging the climate. Clean energy is cheaper and more available than ever. It creates good-paying jobs for Americans, saves money for families, and helps maintain cleaner, greener neighborhoods. These Clean Energy Talking Points are readily-usable, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans offers deeper guidance for message personalization.
4. Location Matters: When you’re talking about climate, start local. Talk about how climate and pollution affects family and friends, neighborhood, work environment, and community. People care about what affects them and their loved ones directly. Equally, if not more important, is to communicate the local benefits of solutions. Americans need to know that climate solutions benefit their health, strengthen their community, and can put more money in their pocket.
5. Offer Concrete Action to Solve the Problem: Know what you are asking for when you engage others. If you are discussing clean energy with your congregation, have a plan for action. If you’re discussing sustainable transportation, improving energy use, or water conservation with your neighbors, provide a resource that empowers them to take the action you are seeking.
The fact is, most of us are surrounded by opportunities to cut waste, save money, and benefit our communities in almost everything we do. Improving our lives and strengthening our communities — while also making a difference on climate change — is one of the few big things we can do accomplish in little steps everyday.
The more we talk about climate change with our friends, families, co-workers and communities, the more comfortable it becomes. To help you get started, ecoAmerica offers the latest research on how to talk to people about climate change, and what to do to be part of the solution. Check out these guides and start to lead on climate in your community: Climate Talking Points, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans, 15 Steps, and our Moving Forward Guide.
Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.
But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.
While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?
To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.
1. Americans who notice severe weather are more likely to attribute it to climate change.
These results were most pronounced when Americans experience heat waves (80%). A majority connected an increase in severity of wildfires (75%), floods (73%), hurricanes (69%) and tornados (66%) to climate change.
2. Women and Democrats are more likely than other groups to notice weather and correlate it to climate change.
For all of the five types of weather events included in the survey, noticing severe weather, and attributing it to climate change approached or were in majority levels. However, there were notable partisan and gender variations — with women and Democrats by far the most likely to notice more severe weather, and attribute it to a changing climate.
3. Americans see shared responsibility for preparing for extreme weather and climate change. While a majority of
Americans feel prepared for a changing climate and more extreme weather, only half are confident that their community is ready. Climate action is about communities — the health and safety of families and friends, and Americans think both local and national leaders bear responsibility.
4. There is a wide range of emotions about severe weather events.
People don’t just notice the effects of a changing climate, we experience emotional responses — especially when we hear about how climate is causing others their lives and livelihoods. While some Americans feel hopeless (11%) when they hear these stories, nearly twice as many feel motivated to help (20%).
While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.
For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.
Whether Americans are looking out their windows, or turning on the local news, we are increasingly confronted by severe weather events — unprecedented droughts, storms, floods and heatwaves are being seen and felt nationwide and around the world. The impact of this “new normal” is changing our lives. Destruction of property from ferocious weather, threats to health and safety, and increased costs to cool homes and workplaces are all realities now facing every American.
But for many, questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather remain. Can we really attribute every weather event to climate change? Is there anything we can do?
While scientists are now able to more accurately make the connection between single extreme weather events and climate change, we don’t seem to be able to rely on our news to make this connection for the rest of us.
Communicating about the connection between a warming world and the weather should begin and end personally and locally, within communities, and with what Americans can see with their own eyes. It must be empowering and include positive, benefits-oriented actions we can all take to participate in the solution. These talking points will help!
Let’s not wait for a better time to have this conversation – now is that better time. With these talking points, you will be able to have productive conversations, and make the weather and climate connection, friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, and others in your community.
And, take a look at prior talking points to help you open the climate conversation, talk about clean energy, discuss the impacts on and the need for solutions for the sake of our children, and communicate with community, faith, and health professionals. Stay tuned for our next talking points, which will publish in October.
Nurses approach health from a holistic and comprehensive viewpoint. That holistic view of health is foundational to advocacy work I do as a member of several nursing and public health associations. Although climate change (CC) truly is a global challenge, my efforts focus primarily on national and state levels through my involvement with the nursing and professional organizations such as the Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN) and the Ohio Public Health Association (OPHA). My recent work with 10 other public health professionals, in an OPHA CC coalition developing a climate adaptation plan, highlights the need to identify state and community level vulnerabilities to climate threats and to develop adaptation and resilience plans to prepare for climate-related weather extremes to prevent harm to human health and the environment.
Our group focused on adaptation and resilience and followed the CDC’s BRACE (Building Resilience Against Climate Effects) model to develop a white paper on CC-related health effects that Ohio’s local health departments are likely to face in their constituent communities. The coalition first identified populations across Ohio at increased risk for adverse CC-related health effects and disease burdens, and then asked local public health professionals to respond to a survey about CC-related health threats and impacts in their jurisdictions. Health threats were rated across three dimensions: short-term impacts, long-term impacts, and socio-economic impacts. Extreme weather events, such as thunderstorms, flooding, and heat were noted to have impacts in all three dimensions and drought in the long-term and socio-economic dimensions. Thunderstorms were the top short-term threat (75% of respondents); flooding was the top socio-economic threat (almost 88% of respondents). The paper addresses health equity and identifies populations in Ohio that are likely to be at increased risk of adverse health and socio-economic effects associated with climate-related events including extreme weather events.
As the atmosphere becomes warmer and moister, more powerful and frequent thunderstorms occur that increase the threats of flooding and power outages due to large and sudden outpourings of rain. Flooding from prolonged or excessive rain contribute to adverse health effects due to standing water, water contamination, increased mold, electrocution or drowning, and agricultural damage or disruption that contributes to food insecurity, loss of productivity, higher food prices, and financial impact on persons in the agriculture industry.
More frequent extreme heat events exacerbate many chronic illnesses and worsen air quality and drought conditions. Drought contributes to health effects indirectly through long-term and socio-economic impacts such as altered vector patterns, food insecurity, worsened air quality, wildfires; and agricultural damage, costs of food and water, and job loss, respectively.
With these health impacts in mind, the white paper discusses CC adaptation in the context of public health accreditation and presents examples of adaptation and resilience areas to address organized under the 10 Essential Public Health Services. The paper includes a list and brief descriptions of resources for public health interventions to address climate-related health and socio-economic effects.
Public health nurses have an integral part in assisting with disaster preparedness, response, and care during the recovery phase follow extreme weather events. Outlining this role, APHN has a position paper titled “The Role of the Public Health Nurse in Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.” This paper provides guidance on how public health nurses can engage and participate in disaster planning, preparedness, and response within their communities or practice settings.
Adaptation and community resilience are also dependent on an informed, committed, and actively engaged community. Stand up for your community – get involved as a nurse to help preserve, protect, and promote health and to prevent illness related to extreme weather events and other effects of CC. Learn about what CC-related events are likely threats to your community and what is being done to mitigate the health effects of these events. Exercise your rights as a citizen and your ethical obligation as a professional nurse to advocate for health in your community.
The Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN) is a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, a partnership between Climate for Health and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). Rosemary Valedes Chaudry represents APHN on the Nursing Collaborative. ANHE is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.
Within the climate community, one of the greatest areas of debate is the role of nuclear energy in the mix of climate solutions. Nuclear power already accounts for nearly 20% of America’s power supply, and there are growing voices of support for researching, developing, and building greater nuclear power capacity as part of a broader strategy for mitigating the causes of a changing climate. However, the topic is controversial.
Calls for growth are meeting stiff resistance. Questions about whether the risks of nuclear power outweigh the opportunities; whether it’s “clean” or “green”; or whether it is a necessity given the urgency of the climate challenge fill the debate.
It’s no wonder then that the public, too, has an uncertain perspective on whether nuclear energy, old or new, is a path that they support moving forward. To better understand where the American public stands on nuclear energy, ecoAmerica conducted our American Climate Perspective Survey in July, which sheds light on this issue:
The findings of the American Climate Perspective Survey show that concern about nuclear power readily exceeds support. What remains true is that there is robust and lasting support from across the aisle for renewable energy.
To learn more about the of results of the survey, view it HERE. And be sure to follow our Talking Points series, where we provide quick, simple, and effective tips and tricks about translating climate perspectives into climate action!
ecoAmerica and Climate for Health are joining the Children’s Environmental Health Network to put #ChildrenAtTheCenter. In January, CEHN launched a monthly education-to-action series as part of the Children’s Environmental Health Movement. The origin of the CEH Movement, which also includes the celebration of Children’s Environmental Health Day on the second Thursday in October, is included in A Blueprint for Protecting Children’s Environmental Health: An Urgent Call to Action.
July is Children’s Health and Climate Change Month. Learn more about children’s unique vulnerabilities to climate change through our blog on CEHN’s website; ecoAmerica’s June Talking Points: Caring for Our Climate and Our Children; and the factsheet and recorded webinar, “Climate Changes Children’s Health,” created by the American Public Health Association, ecoAmerica, Climate for Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children are at risk from more frequent and intense storms, the spread of vector-borne illnesses, and extreme temperatures. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time. Stay engaged by signing up for the Climate for Health newsletter and join the conversation about protecting children’s health by moving to 100% clean energy.
On May 15, ecoAmerica and Climate for Health convened more than 50 health leaders for the National Climate and Health Leadership Forum, co-hosted by the American Psychological Association (APA) in Washington, D.C. APA’s CEO, Dr. Arthur Evans, welcomed the participants and reaffirmed their commitment to addressing the mental health impacts of climate change. In opening remarks on the State of Climate and Health, ecoAmerica’s Founder and President, Bob Perkowitz, and the American Public Health Association’s Executive Director, Dr. Georges Benjamin, discussed the role of health leadership in addressing climate change. Americans trust doctors and nurses as climate messengers, and are beginning to understand that health improves when we act on climate. Public health and healthcare leaders therefore have a responsibility to advocate for climate solutions while mitigating their own impact.
The first panel of the day featured speakers from the Children’s Environmental Health Network, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Green Latinos who grounded attendees in the overarching focus of health equity. These ideas were woven throughout the forum discussions. Those who contribute the least to energy-generated pollution often suffer the most from its consequences. Communities of color, children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor are more vulnerable to climate impacts. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that globally, children are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of disease due to climate change. In the work moving forward, it is imperative to seek to achieve health equity through clean energy solutions.
Representatives from Kaiser Permanente, the American Geophysical Union, and My Green Doctor shared concrete mitigation examples for participants to consider in their own work, and the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and Trust for America’s Health led participants in a vibrant advocacy discussion. Finally, all participants engaged in an immersive discussion on the opportunities for collaboration, how we can best function as a coalition, and how to ready our organizations for participation. Leadership from the American College of Sports Medicine, National Environmental Health Association, Health Care Without Harm, and the American Lung Association provided coalition-building steps they have each experienced and led.
Discussions revealed several key insights:
The forum closed with a call to action from ecoAmerica’s president, Bob Perkowitz, for concrete commitments to work towards 100% clean energy within organizations and health institutions. Climate for Health will support partners as they implement key milestones along their pathways to lead on climate solutions. Read the Forum Summary Report here to learn how.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whenever any technological process becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new processes that will seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
So, begins the “Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels,” which borrows from the original Declaration of Independence. Air pollution directly impacts two of the three unalienable rights, and without too much of a stretch, all of them. Our nation is founded on the principle that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental human rights. Local air pollution (in the U.S., primarily ozone and particulate matter (PM) 2.5) immediately affects life and the pursuit of happiness. Global air pollution (CO2 and other greenhouse gasses) affects all three, as the calamities associated with them contribute to political instability and the liberty of millions worldwide. The consequences of climate change are real, well-established, and happening now. Climate change needs to be addressed in four major areas: mitigation, adaptation and relief, remediation, and hope. In 2017, we saw record breaking climate impacts: hurricanes, rainfall, and wildfires. We are continuing to see them—in Maryland two “1,000-year” storms already in two years!
As we respond appropriately to the challenge of climate change, it will help clean the air. Clean air is the silver lining of climate change response. Although the warming temperatures will likely enhance ozone formation, there will be a reduction in precursors of both ozone and PM 2.5—hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen. Fossil fuel combustion continues to be the main source of this air pollution. So, as we move to more renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions, it will have a beneficial impact on local air pollution.
Fortunately, we have seen reductions in the cost and effectiveness of wind and solar energy in recent years, and an increase in the willingness of individuals, families, organizations, and governments to step forward and act. We are seeing manifestations of a principle observed by Thomas Jefferson, “Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government…whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
In Utah we are seeing many examples of this:
We are in a difficult situation; things will get worse before they get better, but we have better tools and increasing energy to take the actions we need to.
Richard Spencer Valentine is a Licensed Environmental Health Scientist and National Envitonmental Health Association (NEHA) Climate Change Technical Advisor. NEHA is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.
As nurses, we know that clean air is essential for human health. Yet many people in the United States are living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. According to the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report, more than 4 in 10 Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. Breathing in air filled with smog, soot, and other pollutants increases the risk of negative health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular and reproductive harm, and even premature death.
There is also a connection between air quality and climate change. A nurse’s work is essential to the survival and health protection of populations during and following climate-related events and understanding this connection is essential. In our communities, climate change is experienced as increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts, and flooding, all which contribute to serious health threats. Extreme heat, wildfires, and droughts, made worse by climate change, are of most concern when considering air pollution and health. For instance, rising temperatures contribute to increases in ozone pollution[i] and more intense and frequent wildfires worsens particle pollution[ii].
While most people agree that clean air is a personal right, the harmful health effects of unclean air are not distributed equally. For example, nurses who practice in clinical and public health settings addressing the health needs of vulnerable and low-income communities, witness first-hand how their patients and communities are disproportionally affected by poor air quality. Certain populations, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension) are more vulnerable to harm from breathing in dirty air. Health disparities based on race and socioeconomic statues are also noted. People of color and those living in poverty are more likely to experience higher burdens of exposure to particle pollution[iii], and almost half of U.S. Latinos live in cities that ranked highest for ground-level ozone pollution.[iv]
As the largest portion of the healthcare workforce, nurses are uniquely positioned to advance the goals for a heathier Nation, including working to reduce the burden of air pollution. There are many actions that nurses and other health professionals can take to advocate and promote clean air for all. To start, nurses can take an active role in solutions by engaging and understanding the connection between one’s health and climate health. The Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) is working organizationally to educate public health nurses on this connection. Various resources exist to learn more about how climate change impacts air quality, including resources by APHA for public health professionals and a continuing education module by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments for nurses.
Public health nurses can also educate the populations and communities they care for on how to reduce exposures to dangerous air pollutants. One simple approach would be to utilize resources like AirNow.gov. AirNow.gov is a computer application that checks the air quality in different geographical areas, and offers helpful recommendations and precautions to take to reduce one’s health risk during an active wildfire. Lastly, nurses can move solutions forward that both reduce air pollution and help address climate change. In a recently released policy brief, the Academy of Nursing calls on nurses to advocate for public policies and systems change for monitoring the effects of climate change. These include advocating within practice settings to reduce carbon-intensive energy use and working with municipalities and states to shift towards renewable and clean energy. These solutions not only decrease greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and air pollution, but they help create a healthier more livable future for all Americans.
The Public Health Nursing section of APHA (APHA-PHN) is a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, a partnership between Climate for Health and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). Hannah Noel-Bouchard and Linda Bedker, represent APHA-PHN on the Nursing Collaborative. ANHE is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.
[i] American Lung Association. (2018). State of the Air 2018. Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/.
[ii] Climate Central. (2017). Western wildfires undermine progress on air pollution. Retrieved from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/report-wildfires-undermining-air-pollution-progress-21753.
[iii] Mikati, I., Benson, A.F., Luben, T.J., Sacks, J.D.,& Richmond-Bryant, J.(2018). Disparities in distribution of particulate matter emission sources by race and poverty status. American Journal of Public Health, 108(4), 480-485.
[iv] Qunitero, A., Constible, J., Declet-Barreto, J. & Madrid, J. (2016). Nuestro futuro: Climate change and U.S. Latinos. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/nuestro-futuro-climate-change-latinos-report.pdf.
Americans’ attitudes on climate are changing, and the change is in a positive direction. To better understand how these views are evolving, and what that may mean, ecoAmerica has pulled together the most recent public opinion survey data from some of the country’s most prominent polling firms.
The data is encouraging. Americans are increasingly aware that climate change is having real, concrete impacts that affect their lives right now. They want to take action individually, in their neighborhoods, and across the nation — and there is growing support for a clean energy future from across the political spectrum. These are the key takeaways from the 2018 June American Climate Perspectives Mid-Year Summary:
The results are clear: the American public is feeling the effects of climate change, and ready to start taking action. But for many, that next step is the most difficult one — what is one to do about this global problem?
To help get started, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series lays the groundwork for climate action in your community. The first in the series, Opening the Discussion, is a helpful guide for reaching out to others in your community, and building local momentum for action. The subsequent topics in the series delve into more specific spheres, and include: Our Biggest Health Challenge; Clean Energy; and Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Together, we can make a real difference in advancing climate solutions. But we must start today. To dig into the full details of the report, click HERE, or have a look at ecoAmerica’s latest research — and become the best climate communicator in your community!
The discourse around a warming world often gets hung up on politics, but what Americans really care about — and want to hear about— are the challenges and opportunities that climate change has for their families and communities. Strip away the science, politics, and technology, and remaining are people, their families, how climate change impacts their health, wealth, and wellbeing, and how solutions can benefit all three.
As we move into summer, families will spend more time outdoors, and whether at the ballpark or a national park, being outdoors can provide profound benefits for a child’s physical and psychological health. However, a changing climate may present new and potentially harmful health consequences, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While different people may have different opinions about the causes of climate change, we are seeing extreme weather impact our health, and that of our children, in multiple ways. And, every parent wants to do what’s best to keep their child as happy and healthy as possible.
But how does climate change specifically impact children? What can be done to address the health of our climate and the well-being of our children? And can our actions really make a difference?
To help navigate the sometimes tricky nexus between climate change and child health, ecoAmerica has dedicated our June 2018 Talking Points to Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects children, who are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of climate change-related diseases globally. Children living in low income families are exposed to greater levels of air pollution, community instability, and conflict. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time.
But we must start now. The climate that our children will learn, develop, and grow in is dependent on the actions we take today. In our April Talking Points, we explored how a clean energy future is well within our grasp. With smart investments in clean energy, Americans can create well-paying, stable jobs, decrease energy bills and put more money in their wallets. And, perhaps most importantly, we can leave our children and future generations an America where the air is clean and the water is safe, where families can have happy and healthy summers, now and for years to come. After all, caring for our climate is caring for our children.
Addressing climate change can be overwhelming and daunting. However, NEHA and its Climate Change Program are up for the challenge. NEHA is meeting this task through its climate change website, which offers climate and health resources addressing: air quality, built environment, food security/food safety, and emergency response. These resources are recommended by NEHA’s Climate Change Committee and ecoAmerica.
Through its partnership with ecoAmerica, NEHA and ecoAmerica were able to provide the American Climate Metrics Survey to NEHA members in 2016 with a follow-up survey in 2017 to understand what NEHA members think about climate change, actions, and solutions. The survey exhibited improvements in 2017 from 2016 in attitudes towards clean energy solutions: a 9-point increase in the understanding that if the U.S. took steps toward clean energy and climate solutions, it would increase job opportunities; and a 10-point increase in perception of clean energy and climate solutions helping the economy. Increases that were on par with the national average include beliefs and concerns about climate change: 3% that it is happening, 1% are personally concerned, and 5% noticed more severe weather. There was a significant drop in NEHA members from 63% in 2016 to 52% in 2017 in the belief that there should be money to fund research and development of new clean energy sources.* Interestingly, it appears the survey being open September 18-28, 2017 during three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) did not greatly influence the results. NEHA members’ and environmental health professionals’ expertise on climate change and its impacts needs to be above the national averages. The biggest take-aways from the survey are that NEHA members value clean air and water and feel a moral responsibility to work towards a safe and healthy climate, at higher rates than national averages. Additionally, a large majority believe communities need to prepare for floods and drought to minimize impact.
Some of the disconnect between environmental health and climate change could be explained by the lack of dialogue between environmental health practitioners and partnerships with emergency preparedness. Emergency preparedness is continuously planning for climate change events such as hurricanes, fires, and severe flooding. Environmental health often is not considered a traditional stakeholder in response planning, despite its crucial contribution during recovery. Communities are often behind in response recovery because environmental health was an afterthought, for example, shelters. Shelters are key in a disaster, and maintaining sanitary conditions is a priority for environmental health. Diseases such as norovirus and gastrointestinal infection can spread quickly. Environmental health involvement early on would build fail-safes to reduce or prevent the spread of disease.
While there have been improvements in NEHA members’ mindfulness of climate change and its health effects, the disconnect still exists. Based on the survey results, NEHA members are unaware of resources that can assist them in providing subject matter expert advice to policymakers and the public. Members see the beneficial solutions to health, however there is room for continual growth. NEHA and ecoAmerica are working on additional resources and tools that will help make the connection between environmental health and climate change stronger. When environmental health professionals engage, prepare, and collaborate with other professionals and community members on effective climate change strategies, then partnerships and solutions arise.
* This decrease can partially be attributed to more options being added to the survey for where money from a carbon fee could go. The second most favored option was for the money to help improve education and health services.
Christine Ortiz Gumina, MPH, and Vanessa T. DeArman are both NEHA Project Coordinators.
The National Environmental Health Association is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.
Are Americans looking to leaders outside of the political arena for guidance on climate change? ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners set out to find this answer in the May 2018 American Climate Perspective Survey (ACPS). The ACPS found that there is increasing opportunity for faith leaders and health professionals to lend their leadership to climate.
And the good news is that both are taking up the mantle. In addition to American Public Health Association making 2017 the year of climate and health, other associations have increased their climate advocacy, including the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) who recently hosted Climate, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference, bringing nurses together to discuss climate impacts on health and strategize protecting vulnerable communities. And, in addition to Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, Laudato Si, a diversity of faith leaders are elevating climate as a visible national issue. American Baptist Churches USA’s Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer recently announced its recommitment to care for God’s creation, including a call for clergy, congregations, and individual disciples to advocate for climate issues and solutions.
Despite all of this promising momentum, there is still work to do to fill the climate leadership gap. As the ACPS found, relatively few Americans are currently hearing information from faith or health leaders.
ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found that Health professionals are the second most trusted messengers for information on climate change (62% nationally), just after scientists (70%), with a 5-point increase since 2015. But, unfortunately, only 20% of Americans report hearing about the climate from health professionals. As the report shows, Americans are increasingly feeling the impact of climate change on their health, and a majority are increasingly correlating climate solutions with the benefit of better health. All considered, the opportunity for health leadership on climate is simultaneously great and unfulfilled.
Hope in Faith
Although currently only 10% of Americans nationwide are hearing about climate change from faith leaders, four times as many people trust faith leaders as messengers on the topic. Nearly one in four (24%) Americans are talking about climate change at their place of worship already. As the report shows, the increase in both trust and climate conversation among people of faith is trending rapidly upward over the past few years. These results signal hope that faith leadership on climate is ascending with increasing growth potential.
The climate movement is faced with a profound opportunity to accelerate health and faith leadership on climate. Americans seek guidance, and their trust in health and faith leaders on climate is growing. As we move into election season, and as climate impacts accelerate, we must inspire and empower health and faith leaders to become more visible on solutions. Missing this opportunity misses the mark for ensuring a healthy, thriving, habitable world.
ecoAmerica is doing all we can to meet this challenge, offering the Climate for Health program for health institutions and professionals, and Blessed Tomorrow, empowering a coalition of faith denominations and leaders to take up the mantle on climate solutions.
Read additional findings on the opportunity for faith and health leadership on climate by downloading the May 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey here.
Climate change is today’s greatest public health challenge. While all of us will experience the health impacts of climate change, some groups, including tribal communities, are particularly vulnerable. Climate justice requires ensuring fair treatment of all people — regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic status — in creating policies and practices to address climate change. By providing resources and assistance to communities that need it most, we can create healthy environments for all.
For almost five years, the American Public Health Association, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, convened the Tribal Public and Environmental Health Think Tank to raise awareness about and achieve improvements to the unique public and environmental health challenges faced by the communities they serve. To highlight climate change and other public health concerns impacting tribal communities, the Think Tank released a report, Priorities in Tribal Public Health.
The report highlights six tribal public health priority issues, including climate and health, along with food sovereignty and access, infrastructure and systems development, resource extraction, clean air and clean water. Priorities in Tribal Public Health discusses these priorities and provides some of the historical, political, social and cultural contexts key to understanding the unique issues tribal communities face, including the effects of climate change.
Climate change significantly impacts air, water and food. It has resulted in rising coastal water levels; more frequentforest and grass fires; increased pests and vector-borne disease; extreme weather conditions; decreased food availability; lower inland water and underground aquifer levels and non-native plant encroachment.
As a result of geographic vulnerabilities and extreme environmental changes, some American Indian/Alaska Native communities have been displaced and traditional food practices, medicines and ceremonies threatened.
Weather pattern changes and warming waters can impact the health of local animals and plants if they are unable to migrate or adapt well to changing ecosystems. By threatening the health of local plants and animals, climate change disrupts the ability of Native populations to access traditional food and medicine sources and to perform traditional ceremonies.
American Indian/Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights are limited by treaty right boundaries, which historically have been subject to encroachment and litigation. This limits access to culturally important species that have migrated to other geographic areas and native plants that are unable to survive in the changing environment. Treaty rights give Native populations legal protections over these specific geographic areas, so merely reestablishing communities elsewhere is not always an option.
Many tribal reservations are rural and are highly dependent on surface water — such as reservoirs, lakes and streams. Surface water is particularly susceptible to non-point source pollution that enters waterways during heavy precipitation and storms. The frequency and severity of extreme storms becomes more of a concern due to the effects of climate change.
Climate change affects another precipitation extreme as well — droughts. People living in drought conditions may be more likely to encounter certain dangerous situations, including dust storms or flash floods. Drought conditions can contribute to wildfires and wildfire smoke exposure, which reduces air quality and increases respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations, as well as exacerbates asthma, bronchitis and other breathing problems.
To combat the effects of climate change, many tribal communities are looking to their respective cultural knowledge and practices. Many American Indian/Alaska Native communities have prided themselves on traditional subsistence lifestyles and cultural practices based on direct contact with the environment for thousands of years. These communities have invaluable knowledge regarding the connection between human interaction with the environment and its resulting impacts on human health and well-being.
This Traditional Ecological Knowledge is constantly evolving and passed down through generations. It gives tribal communities a holistic understanding of the impacts of climate change and a unique approach to interpreting climate research. As an essential resource, TEK is critical to anticipating climate change consequences and designing adaptation responses in tribal communities.
It is important to build understanding of tribal public and environmental health issues and increase support for initiatives addressing the concerns tribal communities face. Though 567 tribes are recognized by the federal government today, there remains little national recognition of the environmental injustices and lack of health equity thatimpact Indian Country.
We must work in partnership with tribal communities, learning from their traditional ecological knowledge, to address climate change and its health impacts, to give American Indian/Alaska Native communities a healthier future, while preserving cultural traditions and practices.
Ivana Castellanos is a Policy Analyst at the Center for Public Health Policy, American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA is a founding partner of Climate for Health, a network of health leaders committed to protecting the health and well-being of Americans and leading by example on a path to a positive future for climate solutions.
I often struggle to instill in undergraduate nursing students the concept of inequity and why this is an important concept to understand for their nursing practice. I use the well-known slide of equality/equity of youth looking at a baseball game as it clearly shows why some people do need a redistribution of services in order to be successful and healthy. However being able to “see” inequity on a slide and “seeing” it in reality are two different matters. This is even more of a challenge when it comes to discussing how current inequities amplify the undue burden that some people will experience with climate change.
Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, made landfall on August 2017, the largest storm to strike the US in over a decade. The costliest and wettest tropical cyclone on record, it inflicted nearly $200 billion in damage, primarily from widespread flooding in southeast Texas.(1) In Rockport/Fulton, a coastal community where Harvey made landfall, high winds and resulting floods inundated thousands of homes and severely damaged infrastructure. Now, many months later, Rockport is still reeling from the aftermath of Harvey.
In order to ensure health equity and prepare communities for the impacts of a changing climate on health, we must include evaluation of how populations are disproportionately affected in climate mitigation and adaptation planning. Currently, about 10,000 people live in the Rockport area year-round and they sustained disproportionate damage during Harvey.(2) Damage to health care infrastructure is creating or exacerbating existing health disparities among the residents of Rockport/Fulton, which includes diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Nurses work in a variety of community settings and are professionally obligated to address health disparities in the health sector and in caring for affected populations, making nurses uniquely positioned to foster the equitable solutions needed to promote health.
Thus, when UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing received funding (3) to provide health care support during Harvey recovery, the undergraduate Population Health faculty used it as teachable moment in understanding inequity. We are now providing a variety of health services at no cost: assessment; screening; administering Hepatitis A, tetanus and flu vaccines; and providing minor urgent care services. Students also had an opportunity to canvas the neighborhoods, going door-to-door to ensure that residents were well and that no cost health care was available if needed.
Now nursing students are able to “see” inequity due to consequences of climate change by the following: 1) year-round residents have not been able to fix their roofs and homes as they did not have insurance and did not receive enough from FEMA while seasonal residents who have second homes in Rockport were able to fix their homes quickly because they have sufficient resources to be able to do so; 2) year-long residents were not able to receive timely health care as Rockport’s healthcare infrastructure has been slow in returning while seasonal residents were able to receive timely health care; and 3) many year-long residents lost their employment because local businesses were unable to recover and now a food bank has started at a local ministry and continues to have a robust crowd coming for needed sustenance. As in all cases of severe weather events that are exacerbated by climate change; existing disparities and inequities are worsened. Rockport has become a case study of this phenomenon.
Student reflections of their experience have been very meaningful, often explaining how the students were awe struck by the devastation and the importance of giving voice and advocating for those most impacted. They describe the inequity that they were able to “see” and more importantly, have a positive impact because of their delivery of nursing care, bringing better into focus their reasons for choosing nursing as a career.
Adelita Cantu is a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN). NAHN is a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, a partnership between ANHE and Climate for Health. Learn more about the NAHN and their work here. The Nursing Collaborative is a joint effort between national nursing organizations to elevate climate change as a priority issue among the nursing profession. Learn more about the Nursing Collaborative and how nurses can move climate action forward here.
1. Eberhart, George. “Hurricanes Harvey and Irma: Assistance for libraries still needed.” American Libraries. 1 November 2017.
2. Frazee, Gretchen. “Ripped apart by Hurricane Harvey, this Texas community needs tourists to come back.” PBS Newshour. 29 January 2018.
3. Sansom, Will. “School of Nursing aiding Harvey victims with Paul Simon gift.” UT Health San Antonio Newsroom. 22 September 2017.
A clean energy future is within our grasp. We can have locally-made energy from the wind and the sun that ensures our air is clean and our water is healthy. Communities across America are learning that smart investments in clean energy protect our health, attract new business, create jobs, and build stronger communities for our families. Hundreds of corporations have either committed to or are using 100% clean energy. The momentum for electric cars is gaining, with multiple car manufacturers in a race to compete for market share.
On top of this, Americans want clean energy. Just as Americans view clean air and water as a personal right, they may also start to view clean energy in the same light.
But, is transitioning to 100% clean energy possible? How do we get there? What are the costs, and what are the benefits? What is holding us back? These are the questions that are on Americans’ minds.
To help answer these questions, ecoAmerica has pulled together a handful of helpful resources, and is dedicating our April 2018 Talking Points to clean energy.
Because, despite the fact that oil and coal companies are trying to hold onto their power and profits, and doing what they can to slow the transition to clean energy, there are many in these industries that know the markets for these fuels are waning.
Clean energy is both possible and practical, and the pace at which we achieve 100% clean energy depends on us. The more we support clean energy (with our votes as well as our pocketbooks), the more available and cheaper it will become, and the faster the transition.
America has always been a yes-we-can kind of place. We led the way into space and onto cell phones and the internet. Today, the next big thing is clean energy: affordable, local, wind and solar power made here and now, all across America, in every state and territory in our great nation. Clean energy to power our lives at home and work, create high wage work in America, and free us from the outdated fuels that pollute our air and water and change our climate. America can lead again in the new energy future, with innovations that will fuel a cleaner, safer, and better world for our families. The choice is ours to make.
Note: Clean energy refers to wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, and next-generation nuclear energies. ecoAmerica is mindful that all of these energies need to be pursued in ways that protect nature and the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and habitats.
We’ve all heard the expression, “If you build it, they will come.” Does it apply to bike lanes and cyclists? If we paint some lanes on the side of the road will we be overrun with cyclists? Is it really that simple? Is there anything beyond the bike lane that we can do to promote more participation in transportation-related biking? The simple answer is, indeed, yes there is.
The issue of understanding and promoting bicycling behavior is certainly complex, one pondered by a variety of stakeholders, including urban planners, traffic engineers, health officials and local biking advocates to name a few. It is important to note that it is, in fact, a BEHAVIOR that we’re trying to understand. Just like any other behavior (e.g., smoking, healthy eating, etc.), there is a wide range of things that impact the behavior, from the individual all the way to public policy. It’s important to identify these things because they give us something to target with programs or approaches.
Perhaps one of the greatest influences on biking behavior is the individual themselves—mostly their thoughts, attitudes and beliefs about bicycling. Their confidence for bicycling in urban spaces could also be a factor, all of which could relate to how much they actually enjoy biking. Social networks also can play a big role in whether a person opts to bike—if they have friends, family or coworkers who bike regularly, that can positively impact their own choices. Seeing others biking in the community also speaks to a better “biking culture” in which one feels more comfortable hitting the roads on two wheels when it seems there is more of a critical mass.
Some of the farthest-reaching approaches include the education, encouragement and supportive infrastructure (e.g., bike parking, locker rooms) that common destinations can provide. Schools and worksites are places that millions visit daily, so their role in promoting biking is essential and provides a connection to the greater community’s approach to biking. Policies at the local, state or federal level can offer support for biking through safety, education and the provision of resources. And, of course, the physical environment is another key component. It’s no surprise that features like shared use paths, protected bike lanes, traffic calming and connections with public transportation promote biking.
Estimates have shown that a mode share shift to more active modes of travel (i.e., biking) could save from four to 23 million tons of carbon a year for trips of less than three miles.
Community leaders, key stakeholders or policymakers need to fully understand the expansive benefits associated with biking in order to garner support and resources to support this mode of travel. Beyond the notable benefits of improved health outcomes, bicycling as a sustainable form of transportation has significant “green” outcomes as well. The primary environmental benefits associated with biking are related to the shift in travel mode away from automobiles, with potential benefits of reduced pollution, traffic, congestion and improved air quality, resulting in a more sustainable environment. Air pollution and poor air quality have been linked to many chronic diseases (e.g., respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer), poorer quality of life, premature mortality, increased health care expenses and increased absenteeism at work and school. Estimates have shown that a mode share shift to more active modes of travel (i.e., biking) could save from four to 23 million tons of carbon a year for trips of less than three miles. Shifting travel patterns from automobiles to biking has clear implications for the environment, so understanding the influences on biking behavior is key on the pathway to more sustainable living.
Whether as a stakeholder, advocate, or bicyclist, it is important to pose the questions, “Should we build it? Will they come?” But we must remember what lies beyond the bike lane.
Melissa Bopp is an associate professor of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University and author of the forthcoming book: Biking for Transportation: An Evidence-base for Communities.
Isaac Newton’s third law of motion is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Recalling our physics lessons might give us some insight into Pew’s January 2018 polling results, which found a seven point increase in just the last year in Americans saying that protecting the environment should be a top policy priority. This is a steep increase, especially compared to only an 11-point increase in the seven years before that, combined. Attempts to undermine government agencies protecting the environment and roll back health-protective regulations – also in just the last year – may help explain Americans’ renewed enthusiasm for environmental protections.
46% of Americans now say climate change should be a top policy priority, the highest since Pew started asking this question* in 2007. We might be able explain this eight point jump over the past year through our increasing understanding of – or reaction to – climate impacts from devastation from hurricanes Harvey and Maria and wildfires in California.
While the Pew results reveal a deep partisan divide in prioritizing environment and climate change policies, they also provide insight in thinking about key leadership on solutions. Their 2016 report, The Politics of Climate, found that “some 84% of U.S. adults express confidence in medical scientists to act in the public’s best interests.” These are higher numbers than trust in scientists in general. Key findings from ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey bolster this idea: … Americans place the highest levels of trust in scientists (70%) and health professionals (62%).
Newton’s second law of motion applies here: Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. Health leaders can play a pivotal role in increasing the force of climate action and advocacy by inspiring the Americans who trust them to #ActOnClimate. We can increase the number of people getting involved and the pace at which we are taking action.
Leaders in the health community face a momentous opportunity to champion climate solutions as a priority for public health, which is why ecoAmerica and Climate for Health are hosting a National Climate and Health Leadership Forum** later this spring. We will bring together organizational and thought leaders from national health and medical associations, public health organizations, and academic institutions to collaborate on the best paths forward toward greater climate mitigation and advocacy at this critically important time for advancing public support and political will.
Finally, we consider Newton’s first law of motion: an object at rest will remain at rest unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. America is a big contributor to the effects of climate change and therefore, American voters must be active in helping to solve the issue that has affected the entire planet. At ecoAmerica and Climate for Health, we are leaders in helping to connect all Americans for the common good of the planet. This begins with starting the discussion on climate and making recommendations for climate solutions. Our partners are also spearheading initiatives to get involved at every level. Learn the ways climate is impacting our health from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, the American Psychological Association, the National Environmental Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics; join the American College of Sports Medicine’s ActivEarth Campaign; and participate in the American Public Health Association’s National Public Health Week coming up in the first week of April.
*From 2007 – 2015, Pew used the language “global warming” in this question, and transitioned to “climate change” in 2015 – 2018
**The Leadership Forum is by invitation only. If you would like to recommend a leader to attend, please contact ecoAmerica’s Events Manager Ashley Lane at Ashley@ecoamerica.org
Since the start of our profession, nurses have made the connection between a healthy environment and improved health. Having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink are essential for human health and a key component to disease prevention. Thus, as health professionals, nurses have a professional obligation to address environmental factors that influence health. As climate change threatens to impact various aspects of health and well-being, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) is working to build the nursing workforce with climate literate nurses and empower those nurses to take action in their practice settings.
Nurses are key to the climate movement. With our holistic view of caring for people and as trusted messengers of health information, we are uniquely positioned to positively influence the adoption of climate solutions. However, we must ensure that our profession is equipped with the knowledge and tools to address climate change now and in the future, to continue our profession’s legacy of protecting health. ANHE aims to achieve this by preparing the next generation of nurse leaders and through collective nursing leadership.
Nursing curriculum, like most other health professions schools, is lacking content on climate change and health. To fill this gap, the ANHE Education Work Group has created recommendations for how to incorporate climate and health content into all levels of nursing education. The recommendations pair climate related content with a specific class or general content area already included in nursing curriculum, with suggested teaching strategies to help make the addition of content seamless. In addition, the recommendations provide support for how content relates to nursing concepts and competencies. It is essential that the next generation of nursing career professionals is not only knowledgeable about this topic area, but is also able to adequately respond to the health impacts of climate change.
Various other educational offerings are accessible on the ANHE website for nursing faculty, novice learners, and students to utilize to learn more about climate change and health. These resources include an award winning, open-access, peer-reviewed e-textbook, Environmental Health in Nursing, and a 2017 report developed by nurses for nurses, Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action.
In addition to supporting the nursing workforce through education, ANHE aims to assist in building collective nursing leadership that will expand the ability of nurses to positively influence climate solutions. To do this, ANHE in partnership with Climate for Health, have formed a Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health. The collaborative consists of national nursing organizations that have committed to making climate change a health priority by increasing awareness and engagement among their members. By working within nursing organizations, the collaborative aspires to empower the millions of nurses nationwide to reduce their climate impact, build resiliency in communities and institutions as we prepare for the effects of climate change, and advocate for health protective policy.
Signatories of the collaborative include the: Association of Public Health Nurses, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, National Student Nurses Association, and Public Health Nursing section of the American Public Health Association. Learn more about the collaborative effort here.
There are several actions that nurses can take to support climate-friendly environments at work, in communities, and in daily life. Through our new online Climate and Health Toolkit nurses can learn more about the actions they can take in various practice settings, from academic institutions to hospitals to community settings. The toolkit offers best practices with tips and ideas from nurses who have successfully implemented climate change initiatives in their practice settings or communities.
Additionally, please join us at ANHE’s 2nd annual nursing summit prior to Practice GreenHealth’s CleanMed conference in San Diego, CA on May 6th-7th. Leading nurse experts in environmental health will present on the most pressing concerns facing our patients and communities, including climate change. To learn more and to register, visit here.
Cara Cook, MS, RN, AHN-BC is the Climate Change Program Coordinator at the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.
“Legacy” is defined, in part, as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.” We often think about legacies in personal terms associated with our children—what will our legacy be to them when we are gone? And can it leave them in a better place than they were before?
We think less often about business or organizational legacies. But organizational legacies can be even more important than personal ones because of the resources behind them and their potential impact on both individuals and society.
Since 1937, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has worked to advance the environmental health profession and to protect the public and the environment. Over time, NEHA’s work has evolved as new environmental health threats have been identified and their impacts better understood. NEHA’s work around climate and health is also evolving. In 1997, NEHA published its first position paper on Global Climate Change. The position paper stated that NEHA supports the concept that “greenhouse gases are responsible for a significant portion of the measured change in global climate” and “supports the concept of an association between global warming and an increased risk to public health.” In 2007, NEHA began publishing articles and columns addressing climate change in its Journal of Environmental Health. And beginning with its 2008 Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition, climate change and sustainability educational sessions were added to the agenda. NEHA revised its position in 2017 when its board of directors adopted a new Climate Change Policy Statement. Through position and policy papers, journal publications, conference education, and focus groups, NEHA has acknowledged and discussed climate change as an issue of professional concern.
In 2017, NEHA formed its Climate Change Program Committee, giving new emphasis to the area. As a member of the Climate Change Program Committee, I am grateful for the chance to give input and guidance on this issue to NEHA. The committee hopes its efforts to provide climate change information and tools can help more environmental health professionals better understand the relevance of this issue to their field, and to either begin or expand work in this critical area.
Climate change might be the most important issue of our time. It’s rewarding to be part of NEHA as it broadens its work in this area to leave a positive legacy—for current members, environmental and public health professionals, and everyone.
Mr. Richard Hicks, MPA, is a member of the National Environmental Health Association’s Climate Change Committee and Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, Columbus Public Health.
Health professionals have always been on the front lines of caring for their patients and advocating for solutions to America’s most pressing public health concerns. Today, as climate change delivers record-breaking storms, droughts, and increased pollution, health leaders are stepping forward to lead.
If we can inspire and empower health professionals to lead on climate, we can reach every city and county in the nation with a new climate message, and new reasons to support solutions. We know that Americans are not very motivated when we speak about climate change using environmental jargon. And, it simply isn’t authentic or inspiring for health professionals to talk about GHGs or Market Based Mechanisms. But it IS both authentic and motivating for them to talk about air pollution, asthma, and the health benefits of solutions.
The health and wellbeing of our children, families and future generations is at stake. We can make a difference.
These talking points provide a starting point. Tailor and use them in your conversations and writing to build support for climate solutions.
1. I became a health professional because I care about health – the health of
everyone in our community. I want to heal people, but it’s also important to prevent
the causes of illness and injury.
2. Each breath we take should be a healthy one, and caring for ourselves means
caring for our climate. We can prevent further climate change and protect our health
– and that of future generations – at the same time.
3. Fossil fuels damage our climate and are dangerously unhealthy. We know these
dirty fuels pollute our air and water. And, the toxic pollution we’re adding to the
atmosphere is steadily building up to dangerous levels.
4. Some people are more vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change,
including children, the elderly, the sick, low-income, and some communities of
color. Our efforts to stop pollution help all of these groups live longer, healthier lives.
5. If we stop pollution from fossil fuels, we can slow climate change and improve
our health, now and for future generations. We reduce diseases and illness brought
on by pollution – and – we slow the rising temperatures that are changing weather
patterns and causing more intense storms and severe weather conditions, all of which
threaten our health.
6. It is up to us, as respected community leaders, to lead on climate and leave a
legacy of health. We can speak with authority on the climate and health connection,
and convey the myriad of health benefits of stopping climate pollution.
7. Of all the things we’d love to leave our children and future generations, a
healthy place for them to raise children of their own may be the most important.
Access the full guide here: Download
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope….”– A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859, p. 1)
Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities seems uncannily relevant this January. It’s been a cold and dark month; it’s been warm and bright. It’s been rife with setbacks; it’s been filled with progress. Our darkest shadows have been revealed, our greatest potential uncovered. For those of us working in America to protect and heal our climate, the present period strains for comparison.
Rather than turn fatalistic – or rest on our laurels – it’s time to reset, apply learnings, and manifest new goals. It’s time to shift the storyline of climate change to solutions and success.
President Trump has been in office for just over one year, and according to ecoAmerica’s recent American Climate Perspectives Survey (Fery, Speiser, Lake, & Voss, 2018), some worrying signs are emerging. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change – an 8 point increase (from 28% to 36%) from last year – and 1 in 4 believe the costs and sacrifices of solutions are too high, a 9 point increase (from 34% to 43%). Not only that, more Americans support oil and coal than a year ago – up by 5 points for oil (from 42% to 47%) and up 7 points for coal (from 30% to 37%).
We have experienced a series of setbacks in 2017, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing climate change as a national security threat, and more than 30 federal environmental policy rollbacks.
And all the while our climate is changing, fast. Last year was particularly tragic with climate change-exacerbated extreme weather – storms, floods, fires, droughts and freezes – that pummeled countries, states, cities, and people’s health, wealth, and wellbeing globally.
America is waking up to climate action. Local governments nationwide, along with major corporations and large institutions are pledging to honor the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, despite the United States withdrawal. From We Are Still In, to America’s Pledge, Ready for 100, and others, many American leaders are committing to climate action.
Clean energy deployment is rapidly accelerating. Solar power was the largest contributor to new electricity generation last year, contributing 47% of the newly installed renewable power capacity. Wind power is accelerating just as fast, and together, wind and solar have gone from virtually nothing to 10% of America’s electricity supply according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost to produce solar energy has fallen below the cost to produce coal and gas, making solar the fiscally attractive option. Automobile manufacturers have begun competing for electric car market share. And China, the UK, France, Norway, and others have all announced bans on new fossil fuel vehicles in their countries by 2030 or 2040.
Americans want climate action, and to act on climate. Despite the uptick in support for coal and oil in 2017, support for clean energy tops the list, by a large margin. According to ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey, a burgeoning constituency of Americans are taking action on climate, and want their local and our federal government to do the same. Majorities are also seeing the personal benefits solutions will bring to their health (67%, up from 58% in 2015), the economy (64%, up from 53% in 2015), and jobs (61%, up from 53% in 2015).
Action taken today can change the trajectory of climate change. It can improve lives in cities and towns, nationwide and worldwide. Committing to lead on climate, to do what we can to reduce our impact, and use the power of our leadership to voice the need for – and benefits of – climate solutions is one of the most pressing opportunities of our era.
There is immense power in people coming together from all walks of life – health professionals, faith leaders, and regional and city leaders as well as individuals and corporations, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds – to take the reins on climate leadership. Major institutions in health, faith, communities, education, business, and culture are committing to reduce their climate impact and advocate for solutions. Their leadership inspires tens of millions of Americans on climate change, in counties and communities nationwide including in our heartland.
And we can do more. We can nurture new leadership and take advantage of the growing accessibility of climate solutions like efficiency, clean energy, and restoring nature. We can share our learnings, best practices and resources with each other, to help us all go farther, faster. We can make the benefits of climate solutions visible and tangible by implementing them at a local level, engaging Americans in their daily lives. Most of all, we can share loudly a new vision on climate, one that eschews cost and sacrifice and embraces investment, benefits, and a moral responsibility to our children and future generations.
ecoAmerica can help. We help by providing strategy, tools, resources and collaboration opportunities to increase climate literacy, engage constituents, and build collective action and advocacy for climate.
To that end, we have started a new Talking Points series covering key questions and topics on climate. We will continue to publish our monthly American Climate Perspectives survey. Our Recommendations Report, from the American Climate Leadership Summit, identifies dozens of opportunities and priorities for climate action and advocacy. Let’s Lead on Climate is our guide with stories and recommendations on building climate programs at a local level, and our Let’s Talk Climate series offers comprehensive guides for communicating on climate. Finally, we are and will continue to find ways to bring the best research and practical guidance forward to help us all to be more effective.
“If our federal leadership won’t take up the mantle, the rest of us must. It’s up to us. We have to make the great transition happen now. And we can do it.”
– Bob Perkowitz, President, ecoAmerica
Most of what Americans heard from the Trump Administration in its first year focused on dismissing climate change as a human-made problem, undermining the legitimacy of news organizations covering the issue, and announcements about regulation rollbacks and exiting the Paris Agreement. Eschewing support for climate solutions, the rhetoric centered on jobs, the economy, reviving the coal industry, and opening up new areas for oil exploration. All of which seem to have impacted American attitudes and actions in dramatic ways.
The January 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found notable year-over-year changes of key climate attitudes and actions. The survey found significant shifts, both upward and downward, in trust, energy, hope, and action. The largest decrease was a 10-point decline in trust of the President as a source of information on climate change. The largest increases were in climate action.
Below are some highlights of our monthly poll; you can download the full report HERE.
Despite the rise in oppositional attitudes, personal action and local, community-based action on climate are on the rise. And there is mounting evidence that more Americans are eager for local solutions and are invigorated to elevate action and advocacy on solutions.
Please download the January survey here. For more information, contact Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica Chief Engagement Officer, at meighen@ecoAmerica.org.
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It can be hard to have a positive discussion on climate change. It is a complex issue. Many of us are in our ideological information bubbles or struck by seemingly conflicting information. As we enter 2018, passions are high on both sides, and the stakes even higher. If you want to move your family, colleagues, or community forward on the issue, what do you do?
Opening Up the Conversation
At Climate for Health, we work with America’s national health and medical associations and practitioners to support their efforts to understand the implications of climate change, and to develop practical, effective strategies for them to address solutions with their millions of members. As with the rest of ecoAmerica, our parent organization, our work starts with people, and involves listening to truly understand their values, concerns, and priorities. We’ve learned a lot, and will share what we’ve learned with you in ecoAmerica’s new series: Climate Talking Points.
Each month, ecoAmerica will pick a topic or theme related to climate change, providing both positive talking points and some responses to key questions or criticisms around that topic. The goal is to open up the conversation, focus on common values, and help us all move forward together on climate solutions.
This month, Climate Talking Points offers 9 tips for opening the discussion and counterpoints to common arguments related to energy. Download your copy HERE.
This guidance is grounded in ecoAmerica’s extensive research on climate communications, and experience deploying it (see list and links at the bottom of this page). This advice might sometimes conflict with what you think is “common sense.” For instance, health professionals’ work is grounded in science, and yet some may believe their profession has nothing to do with climate change, or that it’s not appropriate to talk about it in a clinical setting. So simply appealing to science may not do the job.
But the research shows that medical pros — particularly nurses– are trusted by their patients and the larger community. Who you are as an individual and the trusted role you play as a healthcare leader (including among your peers) are ultimately what will give the words you use their power. Besides living your values in an exemplary way, the leverage you have is that people in your circles tend to share your values, but may not yet be “activated” on climate change. Use your connections, and this guidance, to reach out to your colleagues and patients.
A Wealth of Resources
Also please take advantage of the wealth of climate communications reports, research guides, and webinars available for download on the ecoAmerica website. They include:
the Let’s Talk Climate research series, including:
Find common ground, and then take action. Each of us can make a big difference. Please download your Climate Talking Points today.
We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Please contact Chief Engagement Officer Meighen Speiser at email@example.com.
It’s here! The Recommendations Report from the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit, “Taking Up the Mantle,” was published at the close of last year.
On October 25 and 26, our parent organization, ecoAmerica, brought together 300 diverse national leaders from across sectors and society to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. During these two days, we listened to inspiring speakers and discussions and strategized on how to expand and accelerate effective climate action and advocacy in interactive forums, working together to plan paths forward during these critical times. The Summit recognized the inspiring leadership now burgeoning nationwide, and served as a rallying point to amplify that leadership in 2018 and beyond.
This year’s Recommendations Report collects the insights of more than 40 world-class speakers, summarizes the six sessions and strategic planning forums, and lists their top recommendations moving forward — nationally, locally, and with key constituencies.
Healthcare Sector Up Front
The healthcare sector played a large role at the Summit. Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, gave the keynote on Day 2. She focused on the health effects of record-breaking natural disasters linked to climate change.
Reflecting on Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September, Dr. Goldman noted, “We still don’t even know the full extent of the public health impact there, including death and injury rates. The health community has to step up. …Climate change is an issue that requires connecting with people on a very personal level, and that isn’t going to happen from Washington…. This is not a partisan issue — this is a health issue.”
Later, a full session focused on exploring the Health Mantle. Moderated by Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, it featured Anabell Castro Thompson, President and CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses; Dr. V. Fan Tait, Chief Medical Officer at the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Jack Ende, President of the American College of Physicians; and Jim Whitehead, CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine.
A Path Forward
The panel was followed by a strategic forum on Health Leadership on Climate, moderated by Leyla McCurdy, Director of Climate for Health.The forum offered an opportunity to reflect on the health sector’s discussions at this Summit, our progress over the past year, and how we can build on these successes to increase capacity for action and advocacy going forward.
The forum identified the following key opportunities to accelerate health leadership on climate (edited for space):
What is needed to engage and support more health professionals in implementing climate solutions in their places of practice?
1. Create coalitions and partnerships.
2. Promote centrally located clinics and practices.
3. Distribute Green the Workplace Kits for clinics and practices.
4. Share climate leadership case studies.
5. Expand and offer financial incentives such as awards programs.
What is needed to activate more health professionals to advocate for climate solutions?
1. Accelerate health association leadership.
2. Provide climate communication guidance and support.
3. Expand climate and health education. (For an example, see this blog.)
4. Empower and activate health advocacy cohorts and champions.
5. Catalyze outreach and engagement campaign opportunities.
6. Establish formal disease diagnosis codes for climate change related diseases.
View the Full Report!
You can download and read the complete report here. It’s meant to be used: We’d love to hear your ideas and what you are working on! Please contact Leyla McCurdy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Meighen Speiser at email@example.com.
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