Boston - Doctors and medical students gathered at the State House yesterday to meet with the offices of House leadership and their staff, and deliver a letter in support of the 100% Renewable Energy Act filed by Representative Decker and Representative Garballey (H.2836).
"Climate change poses a serious threat to our patients and our healthcare systems,” said Alexander Rabin, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. “A transition to 100% renewable energy will address the root cause of the problem and improve the health of our communities."
The letter, signed by more than 50 health professionals and medical students, asks legislators to pass the Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act, which would transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2045. A majority of members of the House of Representatives have endorsed the bill.
The event follows a symposium held by Environment Massachusetts at Tufts School of Medicine in December, where over 40 health professionals convened to discuss the impacts of climate change on health and the important role of health professionals as advocates for climate policy.
“In the face of climate change denial from Washington and overwhelming evidence that the situation is getting worse, the Commonwealth must fight for clean, renewable energy to sustain the world we live in,” said Representative Sean Garballey, Massachusetts State Representative, 23rd Middlesex District. “This is now above politics. It is a moral issue, a public health issue and it would be unconscionable not to act. This piece of legislation is crucial to the future wellbeing of Massachusetts and the rest of the planet.”
Pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels is linked to a wide range of health problems, including asthma, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. These effects are particularly felt by the most vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly.
“Children are disproportionately harmed by the climate crisis, and every baby born today faces an uncertain future because of climate-related disruption,” said Elizabeth Pinsky, MD, Pediatrician and Child Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Children have had an oversized impact on the climate crisis through activism, and adults -- including physicians and other healthcare providers -- have a moral obligation to support their efforts.”
Burning fossil fuels is also contributing to rising temperatures, which are linked to an increased rate of hospitalizations for life-threatening conditions like kidney failure and respiratory exacerbations. A warming environment also leads to an increased prevalence of vector borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Health professionals are adding their voices to the growing movement of advocates for 100% renewable energy in Massachusetts. Last week, more than 150 youth activists from across the state held a lobby day at the State House in support of the 100% Renewable Energy Act and carbon pricing.
“The health care sector contributes to the climate crisis and is responsible for 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions, which is contrary to the oath to ‘do no harm.”’ said Amy Collins, MD, Senior Clinical Advisor for Physician Engagement at Health Care Without Harm and Emergency Medicine Physician at MetroWest Medical Center. “As trusted leaders, physicians and other health professionals have many opportunities to promote climate-smart health care and other climate solutions.”
More than 200 major global companies have made commitments to 100% renewable energy as part of the RE100 initiative, including companies like Google, Apple and Bank of America. The healthcare industry is poised to follow suit. Several institutions, including Partners Healthcare and Boston Medical Center, are moving quickly to reduce energy consumption and transition to renewable sources of energy.
“Health professionals witness the impacts of climate change in their patients every single day. If we want to leave a planet that’s livable for future generations, we must listen to their advice and act now to transition to 100% renewable energy,” said Peter Schneider, Clean Energy Organizer at Environment Massachusetts.