Opinion: Action needed to address climate change’s deadly impact on health

WIldfire smoke-NYC-June 2023

December 5, 2023 – Action by government and industry is imperative if the world is to avoid “a cascade of escalating health impacts from climate change,” according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Kari Nadeau.

In a December 2 opinion piece in The Hill, Nadeau, John Rock Professor of Climate and Population Studies and chair of the Department of Environmental Health, wrote that climate-related disasters are already wreaking havoc on health. This past summer was the hottest on record, she noted, leading to wildfire smoke that blanketed New York City in June, floods that devastated Montpelier and other communities in Vermont in July, and a wildfire that decimated the Hawaiian town of Lahaina in August.

“This recent string of calamities is just the tip of the melting iceberg,” she wrote. “At the moment, people across the planet face a higher risk of injury, illness or death due to climate change—not only from extreme weather events causing mass casualties but also from increases in air pollution, heightened threats of disease after major catastrophes and other downstream effects.”

Nadeau called for a “massive international collaboration” to fight climate change’s impact on health. A designated “Day of Health” on December 3 at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) is a “step in the right direction,” she wrote, but added, “This historic convening must produce more than soundbites.”

Read the opinion piece in The Hill: A prescription for better public health: fighting climate change

Photo: Jeff Sobotko