As climate change continues impacting public health, the crisis will increasingly strain health systems’ capacity and care costs. The health care sector itself generates 8.5% of the U.S.’ carbon pollution emissions. If the U.S. health care sector was a country, it would rank 13th globally for greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of the U.K.
By Drs. Catherine Chen and Steven Averbuch, CCANJ
Climate change has devastating impacts on the health and well-being of New Jersey communities. Fossil fuel pollution is estimated to cause 10.2 million premature deaths globally, affecting every organ. It increases lung cancer risk, worsens heart and lung disease and contributes to autoimmune disease. There are effects on kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It has been associated with preterm birth, low birth weight and stillbirth. We see asthma exacerbations in our children and dementia in our elderly, not to mention the health impacts of extreme weather events, such as heat, flooding and hurricanes.
This is why medical and health professionals worldwide embrace the World Health Organization’s position that climate change is the 21st century’s greatest threat to human health. Last spring, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the White House launched an initiative to mobilize the U.S. health care sector and drive down greenhouse gas emissions. By signing, health systems pledge to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, achieve net-zero by 2050, and publicly report annual progress. As of November 2022, 102 organizations nationwide representing more than 830 hospitals signed the pledge. In New Jersey, Atlantic Health System, CentraState Healthcare System, Englewood Health, Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas Health and the Valley Health System signed.