Our climate is changing rapidly. We all see it in Florida. The president recently reneged on America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement signed by 195 countries. As a South Florida physician who sees patients with conditions affected by climate change, I’m concerned. With the increasing shortage of primary-care physicians in Florida, the health effects of climate change will exacerbate an already stretched health-care infrastructure. As a result of the administration’s decision, all of us in Florida will have to work even harder to combat the climate-change threat.
Already, there has been more flooding from king tides in Miami Beach. We see algal blooms in our rivers and lakes, due partly to over-fertilization and partly to runoff from heavier rains (a well-documented result of climate change) dumping fertilizer and animal waste into our waterways, as occurred last year in Martin and Palm Beach counties, according to an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessment.
Florida’s rise in the heat index is the highest of any state each year and will continue, according to a National Climate Assessment report by a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member federal advisory committee. These heat waves are particularly dangerous to seniors, those with chronic medical conditions, outdoor laborers, and the poor. Doctors like me see increased cardiorespiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) attacks. There will be more asthma attacks from reduced air quality and increased carbon pollution, and more heart attacks from already choked arteries made worse by heat stress, according to the Florida Department of Health. Newer or re-emerging infections such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue, spread by mosquitoes, will continue.
Because of this concern, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health — composed of some of the most well-respected medical societies representing over half the physicians in the United States — released the “Medical Alert: Climate Change is Harming Our Health!” report, detailing eight ways climate change is harming our health now.
There are solutions. The growth of clean renewable energy will reduce the likelihood of more dramatic harms to our health and deliver immediate health benefits, thereby reducing health-care costs.
We can all help. Vote for green policy choices as concerned citizens and educate others to do the same. It’s a win for everyone, particularly for our health. We can and must do this.
ANKUSH K. BANSAL, WEST PALM BEACH
Editor’s note: Dr. Ankush K. Bansal is a West Palm Beach-based internist and hospitalist.