Latest posts by Jane M. Orient, M.D. (see all)
A consortium of medical societies is echoing former President Obama’s dire warning that climate change is the biggest threat facing the world and public health.
Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, agrees. Two days before the attack on London Bridge, and after the Manchester bombing, he deplored President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accords. He said that global warming is “one the biggest risks to humanity” and pledged to work with other cities to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The American College of Physicians decried Trump’s action, stating that: “Through the Paris agreement, the U.S.—the world’s second largest carbon emitter—joined with all but two countries to commit to policies to prevent and mitigate the impact of global warming on human health. Without U.S. leadership, achieving the voluntary targets…will be far more difficult. Today’s decision therefore greatly increases the chances that the global effort to reduce carbon emissions will be insufficient to avert catastrophic consequences for human health.”
Note that the U.S. is the world’s second largest emitter of “carbon” (carbon dioxide). China recently surpassed the U.S. to become number one. It is soon to lead in economic activity also. Growth and prosperity are closely correlated with CO2 emissions, which come from agricultural machinery, transportation vehicles, and the generation of almost all electricity that does not come from hydroelectric or nuclear plants.
China will not lead on compliance with “voluntary” emissions reductions. It has volunteered to burn as much coal as it likes for the next 13 years.
So what would the Paris agreement require the U.S. to do, and how would those actions affect the health of the “children, pregnant women,… the elderly and people with limited financial resources,” about whom the 12 medical societies profess such concern?
The “voluntary obligations” of the U.S. include contributing to a $100 billion per year wealth transfer to poorer nations through the Green Climate Fund, and slashing its use of coal, natural gas, and oil. The average U.S. family would have to pay $30,000 more for electricity over the next decade. Of course, the price of electricity is part of the cost of everything else also. More and more vulnerable people in the U.S. would, like those in the EU, face a “heat or eat” dilemma. And how much would the cost of medical care rise if a hospital has to pay $7 million/yr for electricity at 40 cents/kWh instead of $1.5 million at 9 cents/kWh? How many more industries would move to China or other places not crippled by the Paris “economic suicide pact”?
Is it worth it? Does human use of the hydrocarbon fuels that provide 80 percent of energy used in the U.S. “imperil our planet’s very survival”? And would a theoretical decrease in the global mean temperature by about 0.2 degree Celsius by 2100 save it? Or is the Paris climate agreement a “Mad Hatter Tea Party”?
What about the increase in vector-borne diseases warned of in the Annals of Internal Medicine? Let’s remember that malaria used to occur in Alaska and Siberia. The mosquitoes are still there, just no one with malaria to bite. If we avert a 0.2 degree temperature increase, but still send migrants from tropical countries to Minnesota without proper screening, we will see vector-borne diseases.
And “food and water insecurity” from climate change? What about from energy rationing? In 1979, the late Isaac Asimov wrote that the worst imminent catastrophe, one which could bring down human civilization, was energy starvation. Abundant energy is necessary for modern life itself, as well as for remedying problems ranging from pollution to water shortage.
What about heat waves, and people perishing from heat-related illnesses? The physicians tout the health benefits of walking and bike-riding, but say nothing about turning off the air conditioning in Miami.
The consortium doesn’t get into these details. Presumably, they are unimportant in view of the “broad consensus”—leaving out some 31,000 scientists who disagree—that “climate change” (they are no longer sure it will be global warming) could cause “irrevocable damage” without “aggressive, concerted efforts” to “curb greenhouse gas emissions.”
The imminent, serious threat to public health is energy poverty. The world, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable, owe President Trump a huge debt of gratitude for his strong leadership in facing down the powerful interests intent on harming America through the Paris regime.