Gina McCarthy, Boris Lushniak, Richard Horton to speak at Climate and Health Event on the Eve of the UN Climate Summit in New York

Media Advisory

New York, September 19, 2014

On Monday September 22nd, the eve of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York, leading figures from the health community – including EPA Chief Gian McCarthy, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, and Richard Horton, editor of medical journal The Lancet – will come together at to discuss the intersection of climate change and health.

The event, which is co-hosted with the American College of Sports Medicine, the US Public Health Institute, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will address the health risks posed by climate change and outline a pathway towards a sustainable future in sectors such as energy, agriculture and active transportation.

The Global Climate and Health Alliance and its member groups will highlight the steps taken recently by several health organizations – including the British Medical Association and the Health Employees’ Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA) – to phase out or restrict their investments in fossil fuels, and increase investment in clean energy and low-carbon health systems.  Another announcement by a US-based health organization is also anticipated during the event, as is a system-wide statement from the UK health system about the sustainable development plan they have recently put in place.

The confirmed list of speakers includes:

RADM Boris Lushniak, Acting U.S. Surgeon General

Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Maria Neira, M.D., Director, Public Health and the Environment Department, World Health Organization

Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet

John M. Balbus, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Advisor for Public Health to the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Sir Andy Haines, Professor of Public Health and Primary Care at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Jonathan Patz, Professor & Director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

The full list of speakers can be found here.

Taking place soon after a number of statements about the need for bold action to protect human health from climate change at a recent World Health Organization conference, this event will strengthen ambition in advance of the Secretary General’s Leaders’ Summit and COP20 in Lima. It will also highlight the significant financial and social benefits of increased investment in clean energy, low-carbon health systems and community resilience.

For more information about the “Action in Climate Health” Civil Society Event, please visit www.climatehealth-sideevent.org

Quotes:

“The evidence is overwhelming: climate change endangers human health. Solutions exist and we need to act decisively to change this trajectory.” – Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization (during the WHO’s August conference)

“Greenhouse gas pollution, through its contribution to global climate change, presents a significant threat to Americans’ health and to the environment upon which our economy and security depends.” – US EPA Chief Gina McCarthy

“Our patients’ health is being harmed by changes to our climate. The health effects of these changes are very clear. Health professionals must understand these effects and must advocate to reduce them and the consequent deleterious health effects. Actions that we can take directly and in our working environments include adopting clean energy sources and ensuring that our health systems aim to reduce dangerous emissions.” – Dr. Margaret Mungherera, President of the World Medical Association

“We’ve now got a plan: it’s quite recent, but it’s a plan that we’ve committed to. It’s about reducing our carbon footprint, it’s about being better prepared for extreme events. And crucially, about how we invest – now – in what we’re doing, and about how that’s going to affect future generations. … We’re taking this extraordinarily seriously.” – Duncan Selbie, CEO of Public Health England on behalf of the health system in England.

“The health care sector is waking up to the reality that climate change is a massive public health crisis and they need to join the movement to address it,” said Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm. “Health care professionals can raise their voices to demand policies that put a price on carbon and invest in clean energy solutions that will prevent a whole array of climate change-related health impacts.”

Media contact:

Nick Watts, Global Climate and Health Alliance Convenor:

Mob: +61421528949,

Email: nick.watts@climateandhealthalliance.org,

Full speakers list

The full list of speakers includes:

  • RADM Boris Lushniak, Acting U.S. Surgeon General
  • Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Maria Neira, M.D. Director, Public Health and the Environment Department, World Health Organization
  • Carlos Dora, M.D., Ph.D., Health policy expert with the World Health Organization
  • Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet
  • John M. Balbus, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Advisor for Public Health to the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists
  • Alessandro Demaio, M.D., Global Health Fellow in Non-Communicable Diseases, Harvard Medical School and Copenhagen School of Global Health
  • Sir Andy Haines, Professor of Public Health and Primary Care at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Genon Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance
  • Josh Karliner, Director of Global Projects , Health Care Without Harm
  • Jacqueline Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program
  • Jonathan Patz, Professor & Director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
  • Janet Walberg Rankin, Ph.D.. Professor, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech and Founder, ActivEarth initiative
  • Linda Rudolph, M.D., MPH, Co-Director, Center for Climate Change & Health, Public Health Institute
  • James F. Sallis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at University of California, San Diego and Director of Active Living Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Gunhild Stordalen, Co-founder & Chair of Stordalen Foundation and CEO of GreeNudge
  • Asterio Takesy, Ambassador, Federated States of Micronesia
  • Jeffrey E. Thompson, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Boards, and pediatric intensivist and neonatologist at Gundersen Health System
  • Cristina Tirado, Chair, International Union of Nutritional Sciences’ Task Force for Climate and Nutrition

The program summary of the Civil Society Event, in pdf form, can be downloaded here.

Links to the recordings of the event talks, organized by session, can be found here. (Note: you will need to register to view each video.)

 

About the Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health

Health leaders convened in New York on September 22nd for an event focusing on the health implications – and opportunities – of ambitious action on climate change. Convened by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, US Public Health Institute, American College of Sports Medicine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the event brought together health leaders including Richard Horton of medical journal The Lancet, acting US Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, EPA Chief Gina McCarthy, Maria Neira of the World Health Organisation and many others.

The focus of the event was primarily on solutions to climate change, but discussion of its’ health impacts highlighted the urgency of the subject. These are anticipated to become increasingly severe, particularly under business-as-usual high emissions scenarios and later this century. Equally importantly, many lives are lost directly as a result of fossil fuel combustion, particularly from air pollution, which causes approximately 7 billion premature deaths every year, and a significant strain on healthcare systems. “Climate change is, at its’ heart, the most significant public health challenge of our time,” said US EPA Chief Gina McCarthy. “Overwhelming numbers of lives are lost as a result of climate inaction.”

Professor Jonathan Patz presented the findings of a scientific review, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today, of the past 20 years’ evidence on the health challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. One of the examples given is the fact that, due to climate change, three times as many extremely hot days (over 90F) as today are anticipated by 2050, with important implications for many illnesses, as well as heat-related fatalities.

The event’s 3 panels centred on the significant public health benefits – and associated financial savings – that can result from policies which also benefit the climate, such as clean energy, better walking and cycling policy and more sustainable diets. Speaking of how public health can no longer be considered without also addressing climate change, acting US Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said, “What is good for our environment actually intertwines with what is good for our health”.

Several new campaigns were launched during the day, including the American College of Sports Medicine’s ActivEarth initiative, and the US Climate and Health Alliance, which consists of a number of organizations across the United States. Jeff Thompson, CEO of Gundersen Health System, also announced: “our board and finance committee have looked at this and are willing to freeze all future investments in fossil fuels.” This move is in addition to committing to using only renewable energy for its operations.

Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm, said, “Gundersen’s announcement to freeze current fossil fuel investments will create the validation and political space for other health care systems to follow suit, both by investing in clean and renewable energy as well as divesting from fossil fuels. The announcement comes only months after members of the British Medical Association voted in favour of ending its investments in fossil fuels and increased investment in clean energy in June, and HESTA (the Health Employees’ Superannuation Trust Australia)’ announcement of a restriction on investments in thermal coal.

 

 

Useful Links:

For further information about the event, including the agenda and full list of speakers, please see http://climatehealth-sideevent.org

GCHA Storify from the event (for photos and tweets during the event): https://storify.com/GCHAlliance/nyc-climate-week-side-event-on-climate-and-health

ActivEarth Initiative: http://activearth.org/

US Climate and Health Alliance: http://usclimateandhealthalliance.org/

 

References:

Patz JA, Frumkin H, Holloway T, Vimont DJ, Haines A. Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health. JAMA. Published online September 22, 2014. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13186. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1909928

‘BMA annual meeting: Representatives vote to spread the word about the benefits of shunning fossil fuels’ BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4307 (27 June 2014) http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g4307

HESTA Media Release: HESTA announces new restriction on thermal coal investments http://www.hesta.com.au/media/docs/Media-Release-HESTA-announces-new-restriction-on-thermal-coal-investments-12914-9c17b9ee-94f3-4f96-9d45-e0d43fee14fd-0.pdf

 

For further information, please contact Nick Watts, Convenor, Global Climate and Health Alliance: Nick.Watts@climateandhealthalliance.org, +61421528949

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