Magazine article Aging Today

Playing Politics with Climate Change -a Public Health Disaster in the Making

Magazine article Aging Today

Playing Politics with Climate Change -a Public Health Disaster in the Making

Article excerpt

In September, shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I took a call from a woman in her 80s (I volunteer at the National Alliance for Mental Illness on the helpline). She told me her home had been devastated by the flooding. She was taking care of her aging son, who is living with schizophrenia. Her fragile hold on community, safety and an ability to care for herself and her family had been swept away.

The climate change-enhanced Hurricane Harvey inflicted nearly $200 billion in damage, primarily from widespread flooding in the Houston metropolitan area. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displacing more than 30,000 people.

Climate Change Is a Reality

This is what climate change looks like. It shakes the foundation of our communities, posing a major threat to public health. It endangers and piles on stressors to what is often already a challenging life for the most vulnerable populations such as our elders.

Climate change used to be seen as something that future generations would have to deal with. While this once perhaps was true, the future is now here. Flooding in Houston and Florida. Loss of safe drinking water and electricity in Puerto Rico. Devastating fires around Northern California and Los Angeles. These are the types of impacts we can expect from climate change. And we have seen all of these just in the last year.

Yet exactly at this moment of greatest need to avert the most dangerous impacts from climate change, we have a federal government that is putting our health at risk. Instead of policies to limit the dangerous climate-damaging pollutants, the Trump Administration and the majority in Congress are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. We see it as Congress moves to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, most of our nation's coastlines and other precious public lands to oil and gas drilling. We see it as the agencies meant to safeguard our health, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have budget, programming and staff slashed. And we see it in active attempts to undermine clean alternatives to fossil fuels-renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Trump Administration and the majority in Congress are abdicating their obligation to protect public health and ensure a better future for us, our children and our grandchildren. They pretend they are not accountable for their actions and for the damages that climate change is already causing. …

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