City Council affirms climate crisis as a public health emergency
The health threats of climate change include increased exposure to extreme heat, reduced air quality, more frequent and intense natural hazards, increased exposure to infectious diseases and aeroallergens, effects on mental health, and increased risk of population displacement and conflict.
Climate change exacerbates health disparities, disproportionately harming the most vulnerable among us – children and pregnant women, people with low income, the elderly, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and marginalized people of all races and ethnicities.
It is for these reasons that the City Council adopted a resolution affirming that the climate crisis is a health emergency. Councilor O’Malley, who offered the resolution during this week’s Council meeting, said, “I want to really set the tone today for our work for this year and beyond in affirming and recognizing the fact that the climate crisis has reached the level of a public health emergency. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the news. Look at what is happening currently in Australia. There have been half a billion animals who have lost their lives. There have been nearly 30 humans who have lost their lives.”
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that only a decade remains for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and even half a degree of average warming will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
“We are experiencing it. It was 72 degrees last weekend. It is going to be 19 degrees tomorrow,” said Councilor O’Malley. He continued, “I always caution you can’t confuse weather with climate, but there is no doubt that we are living with the effects of climate change.”
Many other municipalities around the world are taking this approach as it deals with climate. Local governments in 25 countries have declared a climate emergency, including Worcester City Council and Amherst Town Council in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.