The climate change movement, recently on the wane in the context of economic crisis and ideologically aggressive “denialists,” needs to make a comeback, and fast. Human health (if not species survival itself) depends on it.
Details need not distract us here; suffice it to say that there is detail beaucoup – respectable science, forming an overwhelming consensus among increasingly alarmed environmental scientists – that climate change is not only real, but is occurring more rapidly than predicted even a few years ago.
The consequences of climate change are frighteningly myriad – from rising mean temperatures and frequent severe weather events, to disrupted food production and resultant famine and political upheaval. But of most concern to students and faculty in the College of Health are the implications for human health and well-being.
The forecast is not sunny. Of course we can expect to see rising rates of heat exposure and injury and death from severe weather, but also rapid shifts in epidemiological patterns, disease vectors, and most likely the emergence of wholly new air, water, food and blood-borne diseases never before encountered. The poor, the aged, children, all those already health-compromised, will be hit first, and hardest, as always. It’s all too easy to imagine already fragile and overtaxed health care systems being crippled to the point of breakdown.
We are foolish indeed if we sit by idly waiting to be overwhelmed, or, worse, retreat into fantasies of denial (“oh, somehow we’ll manage to muddle through…”) because reality is too terrifying to face. The time to act to stop the promotion of any further climate change is now.