Consortium Statement on Executive Order – March 28, 2017

The Executive Order of March 28, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” threatens many years of science-based and economically sound policy, defined by thorough thoughtful professionals inside and outside the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public’s health and address the growing risk of climate change. The EPA policies were informed by significant public input and are supported by the majority of Americans.

As described in the Consortium’s recent report “Medical Alert: Climate Change is Harming Our Health,” and established in the 2016 U.S. Climate and Health Assessment, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment,” the changes in our climate are creating conditions that harm human health through extreme weather events, reduced air and water quality, intense heat waves, spread of vector-borne diseases, and other mechanisms. “Medical Alert” addresses some of the economic benefits as well as health benefits that will result from solutions to climate change.

The Executive Order threatens progress toward addressing the risks of climate change, and doctors across the country are already seeing the harms to human health associated with the resulting degradation of our life-sustaining environment.  While climate change threatens the health of every American, some people are more vulnerable and are most likely to be harmed, including: infants and children; pregnant women; older adults; people with disabilities; people with pre-existing or chronic medical conditions, including mental illnesses; people with limited means; indigenous peoples; and those throughout the United States who face regional vulnerabilities.  As medical professionals, many of our members know firsthand the harmful health effects of climate change on patients.  We know that addressing climate change through reduction in fossil fuel use will lead to cleaner air and water providing health benefits for Americans, and will help limit global climate change.   Our organizations are committed to working with officials at all levels to reduce emissions of heat-trapping pollution, and with health agencies to promote research on effective interventions that strengthen the public health infrastructure with the aim of protecting human health from climate change.

In 2007, the Supreme Court held that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act in the case Massachusetts v. EPA.  This decision led to the endangerment finding (2009) by the EPA that the current and projected concentrations of six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and several others in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.  The scientific consensus, based on converging streams of evidence over the past two decades, is that the Earth is rapidly warming, and that human actions (especially burning of fossil fuels) are the sources of these gases in the atmosphere.

The 2009 “endangerment finding” remains in place, and therefore the President is legally obligated to protect the American people from climate change and the health harms it is causing.  We are going to ask for a meeting with the President, and with members of Congress, to discuss with them the urgent need to take actions that will limit warming on our planet so that the health of Americans — today and in the future — is not tragically harmed.

The mission of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health representing societies with 450,000 physician members is to inform the public and policy makers about the harmful health effects of climate change on Americans, and about the immediate and long-term health benefits associated with decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., heat-trapping pollution) and other preventive and protective measures.