Climate change solutions: Essential for human and economic health

Concerns about global warming — now more broadly described as climate change — predate the first Earth Day (April 1970) and have been significantly amplified since An Inconvenient Truth captured worldwide attention in 2006.

Today’s worldwide health crisis has understandably pushed climate concerns off front pages as it dominates every form of media. In the absence of attention, problems persist and in some cases are amplified as fuel efficiency standards are lowered and the Environmental Protection Agency abrogates the monitoring of power plant pollution.

CLIMATE-RELATED CAUSES

Climate change is likely to have spread and accelerated the devastating pandemic suffered today in more than 200 countries. Even if climate change is never linked to COVID-19, future pandemics may be triggered by these relevant factors:

  • Habitat loss

    As animals escape drought or can no longer find the plants that sustain them, they encounter different species in their new habitat. Other climate related factors including severe weather events, fires, and rainfall pattern shifts also lead to migration.[1]

    Animal migration brings existing pathogens to new hosts. At the same time, insects carry vector-borne diseases like malaria, West Nile Fever, and Lyme disease to new regions.[2]

  • Thawing permafrost

    Viruses and bacteria, when frozen, can remain dormant for thousands of years. As climate change thaws permafrost, those pathogens can once again infect wildlife and, ultimately, humans. Smallpox and the 1916 Spanish flu have both been detected in frozen tundra.[3]

  • Water temperatures and shortages

    In warmer water, the bacteria that cause cholera thrive.[4]  As a water supply dwindles, hepatitis and typhoid fever flourish.[5]

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Long after COVID-19 vaccines are available and the current crisis abates, severe unemployment will continue. Historically, stimulus programs have solved immediate need to put food on tables and sustain the economy. Beyond that, unemployment has persisted.

In the mid-1930’s, unemployment rates of 15 to 20% continued long after ambitious New Deal programs were in place. A second devastating crisis, World War II, brought U.S. unemployment below 2% as troops headed overseas and manufacturing ramped-up to support them.[6]

Just as in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, two crises exist today. The world has a new common foe, bringing the need for investment in proportion to what was needed to prepare for World War II.

A Green Stimulus Plan[7] would make our workforce, our economy, and our planet healthier through these and other initiatives:

  • Transitioning to renewable energy would decrease Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions while putting people to work in manufacturing, installing, and maintaining solar and wind energy sources.
  • Replacing petroleum-powered vehicles and setting up an infrastructure to replace gas pumps would reduce pollution and GhG, clearing the air, reducing vulnerability to respiratory infections, and reinventing the entire automotive industry.
  • The work of replanting forests would restore animal habits and, to even greater human interest, O2 to the atmosphere.

The cost of climate change solutions may seem unimaginable. That cost, which will be incurred sooner or later, will be quantified in many international currencies. Delay in paying that cost will be measured in human lives. Healthy people must have a healthy planet!

CDC diagram: Climate change and human health

Source: CDC.gov

[1] PopulationMatters.org
[2] WHO.int — Flooding and communicable diseases fact sheet
[3] NRDC.org
[4] NIH.gov
[5] WHO.int — What is hepatitis?
[6] History.com
[7] CityLab.com

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable and Smart Cities development. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of 3 and has grown the company to over a dozen of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone

@ecopreserve

We empower organizations to reduce environmental impact, improve efficiency, and improve quality of life.
Even in crisis, the lights must remain on at healthcare facilities. Renewable energy provides ready and reliable po… https://t.co/pqP9GINf2F - 3 weeks ago
Alexa Stone

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