The Other Crisis: Climate Change
We are in a crisis, a real live pandemic, and Vermonters have risen to the occasion. We are mobilizing our health care workers and staying home to prevent the spread of infection, and communities are joining together to support our food shelves and those handy with a needle and thread are turning out hundreds of face masks and gowns. Vermont is rallying with energy and industry to get us through this crisis.
But when the COVID-19 crisis has waned (and it will - due to our determined efforts) we will have to return our focus to The Other Crisis – that of climate change. Even though Vermonters have previously worked hard to address climate change, our greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 13% since 1990. So we must pause and consider, what would our emissions look like if we would mobilize to fight the climate crisis just as we have concentrated on fighting the COVID-19 crisis? Imagine a full-on effort, with everyone rallied to overcome climate change – just as with this pandemic. Many people don’t think of climate change as a health emergency - but it truly is. The World Health Organization started listing climate change as the #1 threat to human health long before COVID-19 was on the scene.
So let’s envision the same investment and effort of the all-in COVID-19 response applied to climate change. Let’s imagine a workforce activated on a statewide basis and assigned to climate change reduction strategies and an influx of state and federal funds for supporting comprehensive fossil fuel reduction strategies. Let’s also establish universal no-cost programs to weatherize our homes and financial support for our homes and businesses both large and small to become “net zero.” Let’s implement education courses in all grades, in all K-12 schools and in colleges so our youth are energized for earth-friendly lifestyles and action.
We, as public health professionals, in partnership with our medical and clinical care professionals, are working hard to tame the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are also wondering, how can we call Vermonters to action for an all-out attack on the already pervasive and urgent threat of the worldwide climate crisis? Unlike COVID-19, the impact of climate change on health won’t be temporary. But also, unlike COVID-19, we have the cure. We now need the public will to deploy solutions aggressively, systematically and with determination!
Sally Kerschner, RN, MSN, President, Vermont Public Health Association
Dan Quinlan, Chair, Vermont Climate and Health Alliance
For information about the VtPHA and National Public Health Week, visit https://vtpha.org/National-Public-Health-Week-2020
For more information about the Vermont Climate and Health Alliance, visit https://www.vtcha.org/
The VtPHA is a statewide membership organization that seeks to positively influence the health of all Vermonters. The VtPHA does this by providing a strong, independent voice for public health in Vermont through advocacy, education, and community engagement, and by bringing together professionals, policymakers, and partners.