Climate Change is a Public Health Threat

Leading public health doctor, Georges C. Benjamin says Climate Change is making Americans sick

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Story Transcript

CROWD: (chanting) …What do we want? Science! How do we want it? Peer review!… What do we want? Science! How do we want it? Peer review!… (cheering)

DR. GEORGES C. BENJAMIN: Well, we want to celebrate science, particularly public health science, you know, the stuff that makes the air safe to breath, the water safe to drink, and the food safe to eat.

KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: So, can you talk about the relationship, and how we can frame climate change as a public health issue?

DR. GEORGES C. BENJAMIN: Climate change is an amazing public health issue, and health is the issue here. You know we care about the Earth, we care about the polar bears, but at the end of the day people dying from heat-related injury, people falling, asthma attacks, heart attacks — that’s very personal and that’s all caused by climate change.

People will die sooner, and get sicker, and we will cost us a whole lot more money because we can prevent a lot of this. Well, doctors are fundamentally scientists. I’ve got to tell you, I spent the first 20 years of my career practicing emergency medicine and, you know, we see people survive from car accidents that never would survive, only because of the science.

Well, we’re going to see enormous costs to our health, to our economics. Just think about what happens as these infectious diseases begin to go to warmer climates. You know we’ve already seen dengue, zika, there’s yellow fever now recurring in Brazil. So, these … borne diseases are a serious public health threat.

Yeah, more and more physicians are now recognizing that their patients are getting sicker, and they’ve connected the dots between their patients’ illness and climate change.

PROTEST SPEAKER: Science is our government’s best friend. Science is civilization’s best friend. Science belongs to all people.

DR. GEORGES C. BENJAMIN: Any nation that does not invest in science does so at its own peril. They cannot have healthy communities, and not have safe communities without the science, without the evidence, without data-driven decision-making. And we’re at enormous risk with many of the things that the current administration is doing.

We know that the most vulnerable populations — the very old, the very young, communities of color, who actually contribute the least to the climate equation — are the ones that are the most impacted by that, and they have the least resources to recover.

And if you don’t believe that, think Katrina, think New Orleans. Anyone who thinks, “Well, I live in a big house on a hill,” is fooling themselves. You know, there was a time when even the rich communities in Los Angeles, you couldn’t go out and run, because of how terrible the air was. It’s much better now, but that’s because we’ve treated the climate, and treated the environment as we should of — respected it, created regulations to make the air cleaner, and we’re all healthier for it.

The importance of this event today — this is not just the beginning, but this is a very important day. We want to recognize, you know, Earth Day, and we’re going to advocate for good science, and we’re going to let the folks two blocks away from here understand very clearly, that we’re not going away, and we’re going to support science. We’ve always had a great movement, but this is the beginning of a really big movement.

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