Good Climate Policy and Good Health Policy Go Hand in Hand

Good Climate Policy and Good Health Policy Go Hand in Hand
A thermometer outside a pharmacy reads 45 degrees C, or 113 degrees Fahrenheit, in Toulouse, France, Aug. 23, 2023 (photo for NurPhoto by Alain Pitton via AP Images).

Back in May, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told the World Health Assembly, “There’s really no polite way to put it, the climate crisis is killing people.”

This might seem obvious, but the link between climate and human health is something Kerry himself admitted he has sometimes forgotten in the past. He’s far from alone. Most of us understand intuitively that climate change hurts and that it can kill. That’s why so many of us care and worry about it. And yet, somewhere along the way, we’ve started weighing the problem in terms of degrees Celsius, tons of CO2 and dollar values, rather than the lives it will cost. At the same time, in the health sector, all too often planning for policies, research and education would be insufficient for the levels of warming we had in the 1990s, let alone the 2020s.

This year, July was the warmest on record, though statements like this are increasingly mundane. Unprecedented weather events are becoming the norm, as are record-breaking temperatures. This summer, the U.S. Southwest and Mexico, Southern Europe and China have all experienced severe heatwaves, with 100 million people under heat alerts in the southern U.S. alone. By the end of July, wildfires had consumed over 46,000 square miles of Canadian forests—the largest burned area in Canadian history—producing 290 megatons of carbon emissions.

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