WASHINGTON, DC – November 6, 2022 – Health care is on the front line of the climate crisis, both as an upstream aggravator and a downstream healer. According to the White House, the U.S. healthcare sector is responsible for about 8.5 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which contribute significantly to the climate crisis and many public health problems. Climate change can cause or worsen asthma, allergies, heart disease, mental health, malnutrition, lung cancer, and waterborne and vector-borne illnesses. Extreme weather events can disrupt health care access, delivery and supply chains. Health disparities due to race, ethnicity and low resources are worsened.
On Earth Day, April 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House issued a call to action for the health care sector to help fix the climate crisis. Federal health systems (like the Veterans Health Administration) and many leading health systems across the country are already taking action to reduce their GHG emissions. HHS asked health care institutions to sign a Health Care System Climate (HCSC) Pledge, to reduce emissions and to protect their communities from a changing climate. On June 30, the Biden-Harris administration announced that 61 of the largest U.S. hospital and health sector companies have signed the pledge. Of this group, Atrium Health has hospitals and medical schools in North Carolina; DaVita has kidney dialysis centers in western North Carolina.
In order to preserve a livable earth and reduce the environmental impacts of climate change, the average global temperature will need to be held to 1.5oC (2.7oF) above the pre-industrial levels of the late 1800’s. Currently, our planet is 1.1oC (2.0oF) warmer and GHG emissions continue to rise, perpetuating the problem. For a livable climate, these emissions will need to be net zero (according to the United Nations), when atmospheric emissions are completely absorbed naturally by the oceans and forests. The Paris Agreement of 2015, signed by 193 countries and the European Union, recommends that GHG emissions be reduced to 45% of 2010 levels by 2030 and approach net zero by 2050.
The HCSC pledge asks each hospital and health system to:
- Reduce GHG emissions to 50% of 2008 levels by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050
- Designate an executive-level sustainability leader and develop a climate resilience plan for their facilities and community by the end of 2023
- Conduct an inventory of indirect emissions by the end of 2024
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Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com