Human activity over the past few millennia has been able to profoundly affect the Earth and become a sole source of environmental pollution. It is leading to a decrease in soil fertility, desertification, and land degradation, a decline in the quality of air and water, and the disappearance of biological species and ecosystems (Frumkin, 2016). Environmental pollution negatively impacts public health and human life expectancy and is the leading cause of climate change. Climate change affects all of the world’s population, and while it may bring some local benefits, such as the growth of food production due to a lengthening of the fertile period, in the long run, it will cause serious health issues from heat waves to insect-borne diseases.
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Policies Undermining Public Health in the Context of Climate Change
The researchers state that storms, drought, flood, and heatwaves are direct results of global warming, which in turn cause degradation in water and air quality (Watts et al., 2015). Health issues that arise from these effects include mental illnesses, undernutrition, allergies, cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases (Watts et al., 2015). The ones least responsible for climate change are the ones who experience the most significant impact. Communities of low-income people and disabled are more limited in terms of economic, social, and political resources to manage the growing threats of environmental pollution. Children, however, are particularly exposed to the menaces of air pollution. They are physically immature, breathe more air, spend more time outdoors, and their immune systems are not fully developed, making them vulnerable to the negative impacts of contaminated air.
Climate, Health, and Equity Policy Action Agenda (CHEPAA), which calls for actions against climate change, has more than 70 signees, but this document is only a set of recommendations and not the detailed roadmap for solving the problems. Organizations such as the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) have no authority over the environmental laws and only pass regulations based on those laws. This puts such organizations to passive positions where they are not able to give an immediate response to emerging environmental and health problems.
The global political and business community should immediately take actions discouraging environmental pollution and promoting clean sources of energy to affect public health positively. The US is one of the front emitters of carbon dioxide in the world and the current policies of the federal government that led to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement only worsen the situation (Zhang et al., 2017). The positions of EPA and the APHA as recommenders will not have any significant effect on the current situation. Instead, policies and laws that would allow these organizations to enforce specific actions for the benefit of public health, especially children’s health, must be developed.
The first thing that must be assured is that the US is back into the Paris Agreement and meets every commitment made under it. Carbon-dioxide emission levels must immediately be decreased before imposing irreparable damage to the health of the younger generation. Policies that ensure children have regular medical examinations for the negative impacts of air pollution must be developed to have a timely intervention if something irregular occurs.
The government can be pressured to make appropriate decisions through Small Interest Groups (SIGs) and lobbyists. Funding for this initiative can come from the signees of CHEPAA, and thus, these organizations will have ensured their active participation in solving climate change problems. These organizations, specifically APHA, must also correctly address health issues and negative influences on children’s health arising from global warming through proactive public campaigns and media coverages. Doing this will assure public commitment to the cause and additionally pressure the federal government to take appropriate actions.
The second part of the complete solution is the prevention of incidents like the Paris Agreement withdrawal from happening again. Organizations like EPA and APHA must have more authority in the matters of environmental issues and public health and be able to influence the decisions made by the federal government. There must be several amendments to the CHEPAA, which will include the detailed roadmap and list of actions that each signee is obliged to undertake to slow down climate change. Oil producers and companies that burn fossil fuel for production must fund environmental and public health programs, and children rehabilitation programs because they are direct contributors to climate change and pollution (Seinfeld & Pandis, 2016). Taxes can be increased for such companies to encourage the use of alternative and sustainable sources of energy.
Impact on Healthcare Delivery System
In the coming years, healthcare system might be forced to increase its spending on research and technology to improve its readiness and resilience for potential weather events and their outcomes in terms of health issues. Hospitals will have to be the central responders for new problems, instead of becoming victims. Questions on how hospitals will operate in a post-fossil fuel environment and how the healthcare delivery system could effectively function using less energy will require additional research and expenditure to be answered.
Climate change is not only an environmental issue but a serious threat to the health of all human beings, particularly of children. In pursuit of economic profit, Donald Trump has opted to set aside the Paris Agreement, but this profit, as stated in the research, is only short-term (Zhang et al., 2017). Instead of seeking financial benefits, the US and every other country in the world must be accountable for environmental issues (Urry, 2015). Governments, environment agencies, and healthcare organizations must initiate required regulations and laws to ease the consequences of global warming for future generations.
Frumkin, H. (Ed.). (2016). Environmental health: From global to local. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Seinfeld, J. H., & Pandis, S. N. (2016). Atmospheric chemistry and physics: From air pollution to climate change. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Urry, J. (2015). Climate change and society. In J. Michie & C. Cooper (Eds.), Why the social sciences matter (pp. 45-59). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Watts, N., Adger, W. N., Agnolucci, P., Blackstock, J., Byass, P., Cai, W.,… & Cox, P. M. (2015). Health and climate change: Policy responses to protect public health. The Lancet, 386(10006), 1861-1914.
Zhang, Y. X., Chao, Q. C., Zheng, Q. H., & Huang, L. (2017). The withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement and its impact on global climate change governance. Advances in Climate Change Research, 8(4), 213-219.