On Wednesday, public health professionals joined leaders from academia, government and the private sector to discuss the biggest threats to climate and global health at a Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health forum.
Entitled “Clear the Air: Why Now is the Time to Tackle Global Air Pollution?” The event was hosted by CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam and featured conservationists Ebony T. Martin and Mark Watts, World Health Organization officials Heather Adair-Rohani and Maria P Neira , US Senator Edward J. “Ed” Markey (D-Mass.), economist Michael Greenstone and head of the Clean Cooking Alliance Donee Alexander.
School of Public Health Dean Michelle Williams opened the event by explaining that air pollution is one of the main dangers to public health.
“Each year, it is estimated that air pollution causes seven million premature deaths and the loss of millions of additional healthy years of life,” Williams said. “This puts air pollution on a par with other major global health risks, such as unhealthy diets and smoking.”
Neira, who heads the World Health Organization’s Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants, said adopting more restrictive air quality guidelines to limit particulate matter – tiny airborne matter – can help prevent many of the 7 million premature deaths annually. due to air pollution.
“If we are able, globally, to implement the recommended levels, especially for PM 2.5, we could save 80% of these lives,” said Neira. “Now is the time for ambition and speed in the name of public health.”
Martin, co-executive of the environmental justice organization Greenpeace, said black and brown neighborhoods tend to shoulder the burden of environmental issues.
“If we look at the health conditions of our black and brown communities, they are disproportionately affected by respiratory illnesses, illnesses, birth defects, asthma,” Martin said. “Blacks are 40 times more likely to have asthma and three times more likely to die from asthma.”
Markey discussed his attempt to pass a comprehensive climate change bill, which called for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.
He added that efforts to defeat climate change legislation currently being debated in Congress were “no surprise” to him, given that opponents of his 2009 bill have spent a record $ 700 million. of dollars to defeat him.
“It’s a historic battle,” Markey said. ” We are at the crossroads.
“We must do something for the president to have credibility in Glasgow, and the rest of the world will now have to put on the table their own plans to deal with this problem,” he added, referring to the Nations. United on Climate Change. Conference starting later this month in Scotland.
When Elam asked the panelists what they would like people to do to make a difference in climate change, Martin urged viewers to take advantage of the current political climate in America.
“We have an opportunity right now. We deserve to live in a world beyond fossil fuels, ”explained Martin. “I believe we all have power. When we go out on the streets and introduce ourselves, we cannot be turned away. And that’s what I encourage everyone to do. Find your voice right now.