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In Wake of Recent Reports, Internists Call for Immediate Action to Address Climate Change

Statement attributable to:
Ana María López, MD, MPH, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (November 29, 2018) — In light of three recent reports, the American College of Physicians (ACP) is deeply concerned about the negative impact that climate change is having on public health and patients, and that these effects will worsen without immediate action.

ACP is alarmed about the findings in the 2018 Lancet Countdown on climate change and health: shaping the health of nations for centuries to come report and the 2018 Emissions Gap Report from the United Nations released this week, as well as the findings in the Fourth National Climate Assessment that was published last week. The College recognizes that climate change is already having a deleterious impact on human health, especially among children, the elderly and low-income populations, and that those risks will amplify without immediate action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

ACP supports a number of the Lancet report’s recommendations to address climate change, including the need for climate change research funding, increased efforts to curtail global emissions of greenhouse gasses that are harmful to the environment and public health, increased education for physicians on climate change and its impact on human health, and the adoption of environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient practices to prepare for the impacts of climate change and ensure continued operations during periods of high patient demand.

ACP has a longstanding commitment to addressing and combatting climate change. In a 2016 paper, Climate Change and Health, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP outlined the negative consequences that climate change will have on public and individual health. The paper cited higher rates of respiratory and heat-related illnesses, increased prevalence of diseases passed by insects, water-borne diseases, food and water insecurity and malnutrition, and behavioral health problems as potential health effects of climate change. The paper also highlighted that physicians can play an active role in mitigating the consequences of climate change by engaging in environmentally sustainable practices. ACP’s Climate Change Action Plan provides resources and tools to help physicians reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in their practices. Additionally, ACP is a founding member of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, which brings together 22 medical associations representing approximately 550,000 clinical practitioners to address climate change.

Adopting policies to address climate change will result in major health and economic benefits. The Fourth National Climate Assessment states that “By the end of this century, thousands of American lives could be saved and hundreds of billions of dollars in health-related economic benefits gained each year under a pathway of lower greenhouse gas emissions.” Addressing climate change is an opportunity to prevent negative health impacts on patients and public health, as well as adverse environmental outcomes.

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 154,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Julie Hirschhorn, (202) 261-4523, jhirschhorn@acponline.org