With increasing global temperatures and the occurrence of natural disasters on the rise, the majority of us have already been affected by global warming to a certain degree. Though we may casually equate unpredictable weather patterns with climate change, many of us forget to consider how our changing environment may affect our patients today and in the future. In a recently released article in Pediatrics(10.1542/peds.2017-3774), Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn and Dr. Kevin Chan discuss how global warming will lead to a series of devastating consequences that will disproportionately affect the health and well-being of children around the globe.
Echoing the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on Global Climate Change and Children’s Health (Council on Environmental Health, AAP)1, Philipsborn and Chan re-direct our attention to this critical topic. As they explain, increased global temperatures directly impacts health by worsening air quality, increasing the number of days with life threatening heat exposure, propelling the spread of diarrheal diseases and malaria, as well as triggering unexpected droughts, floods, or other natural disasters that leads to malnutrition in resource poor regions of the world. The sum of these effects is a substantial increase in the morbidity and mortality of children and other vulnerable populations.
We have known about the anticipated effects of climate change and their impact on health for the last decade, and yet the amount of attention paid to the topic by the medical community does not appear to reflect the urgency of the matter. While it is true that the current political climate of our country is not often friendly to those in defense of global warming, we must stand together as a group and shift the political discourse from one of political opinion to that of public health. We must help politicians recognize that we are likely facing the greatest threat to global health we have ever seen.
In 2016, surface temperatures on this planet were the highest they have ever been. In 2017, the world experienced the greatest amount of damage ever recorded during a single hurricane season. What record will be broken in 2018? In 2100? If future predictions about the Earth’s warming temperatures continue to prove correct, far more records will be broken in our lifetime, most of which will be to the detriment of our children and our patients. As Philipsborn and Chan urge, the time to act is now.
- Health, Council On Environmental. “Global Climate Change and Children's Health.”Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Nov. 2015, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/5/992.