The topic of climate change has been on everyone’s minds lately. Over 40 tornadoes struck the state of Kentucky and neighboring states last weekend in an unprecedented storm, with one tornado leaving a record-breaking path of destruction that was over 200 miles long.
With Minnesota witnessing its first tornado in December, people are concerned that the recent string of devastating storms could spell a “new normal.” That is why Dr. Jay Lemery, an emergency medicine professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, decided to host a Reddit AMA to answer questions.
In addition to co-leading the country’s first Climate & Health Program at CU Anschutz where they investigate the link between climate change and health, Lemery is also one of the world’s first climate change doctors, which means he studies the effects of climate change on human health and advocates for policies to combat climate change.
Are The Effects Of Climate Change Already Occurring?
In some parts of the world, the question of health effects from climate change aren’t a question of “if” or “when.” They’re already happening. One user asked about the epidemic of kidney disease killing laborers on sugar cane plantations in Central America and if this epidemic was linked to climate change.
Lemery answered that it was and explained that he has been working on this problem with doctors Rick Johnson and Lee Newman.
“We’re correlated early kidney disease in areas of extreme heat stress in Guatemala and El Salvador. These are vulnerable field workers; and are getting end-stage kidney disease in their 30s and 40s– in a place with little access to healthcare,” he explained.
“What is disturbing is that we’ve also seen this in the work of colleagues in Sri Lanka,” he continued. “In summary, this tells us that outside, agricultural workers are now at risk as temperatures rise. We know that climate models have predicted that in some parts of the world, for significant parts of the day– it will be physiologically impossible for a human to cool off outside, even with copious water intake, etc.”
What Can People Do To Stop The Effects Of Climate Change?
Climate change threatens food security, worsens air pollution and intensifies natural disasters. It’s a public health crisis. The CDC’s Climate and Health program must be strengthened to address these and other threats to Americans’ health.
— Rep. Lauren Underwood (@RepUnderwood) February 3, 2021
Climate change is a big problem, and it seems like there’s little one person can do to make an impact. However, Lemery had a few suggestions that anyone can do to make a difference.
He stated that it’s already widely known that “meat-based diets and the ‘supply chain’ needed to provide us with widely available steaks are SUPER-carbon energy-intensive [land use; feedstock, etc.].” To combat this, he recommends that eating a plant-based diet, or even increasing the ratio of more plant-based foods in your diet, saying that it will make a “big dent in the carbon economy.”
He also asked individuals to take a look at their “big” life purchases, especially their cars, and asked them to consider a hybrid/electric vehicle. “This sends a big message to automakers on what consumers want,” he explained. “It’s a market-based economy.”
He also stressed the importance of voting. “Everyone has issues that are important to us, but there is no reason that voters – in both parties – can’t push their candidates to have a sensible approach to climate change,” he said. “It is a risk to our world, and any voter should hold their candidates accountable to explaining how they’ll use their office to minimize this risk to our communities.”