Health and medical experts agree that climate change is a health emergency – one of the greatest threats to human health that America has ever faced. Our nation’s health professionals are witnessing the health harms of climate change now, and warning us of the growing impacts on our collective well-being, and the strength of our health systems and our economy, if we fail to take urgent action.
The health and economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the perils of ignoring science and health expertise. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic must be the first health priority for the new Administration. But to avoid being caught flat-footed in the face of growing climate health threats, we must also act now to respond to the climate health emergency.
The authors and signatories of the Climate, Health, and Equity Recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration represent health professionals and health organizations working every day to ensure the health and well-being of people and communities nationwide. Despite the health devastation we experienced over the past year, we remain optimistic about the future. We know that good solutions are available – solutions that provide unparalleled opportunities to simultaneously achieve immediate and significant health benefits, strengthen our economy, build racial and environmental equity, and achieve our climate goals.
We are working together to build the health voice on climate action. And, each of us is also working in our own organizations and with our networks, as well. Health Care Without Harm, for example, specifically works with the healthcare sector to reduce emissions and increase resilience as a way to protect public health. They published, “Calling for climate-smart health care: Recommendations for the incoming Biden-Harris administration.” The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments focused their letter to the Biden Transition Team on air quality and oil and gas development.
As the new Administration confronts the interconnected crises of COVID-19, racial injustice, climate change, and economic recovery, it is critical that health and health equity are central organizing principles for “building back better.”
The investments we make today will determine the health of our nation for decades to come. Below we offer a set of recommendations for a whole of government approach to embed health and equity in ambitious climate action.