Report: NC Faces Urgent Need for Clean Air, Climate Action
Monday, August 28, 2023
North Carolina is grappling with the consequences of climate change, with sweltering summers, a surge in wildfires, and frequent extreme weather events as the new norm.
A new report makes recommendations to tackle such challenges. The latest findings from CleanAIRE NC shed light on what it called the "urgent need to address the changing climate as it relates to air pollution and public health."
Dr. Aaron Levy, pediatric hospitalist assistant professor of pediatrics at Atrium Health, addressed the issue at the 2023 NC Breathe conference. He emphasized the critical role of the medical community and the necessity for more education about the climate's effects on patient health.
"That's not just infants and the elderly who are already more predisposed to getting dehydrated, having electrolyte abnormalities, having heat stroke and heat exhaustion," Levy outlined. "Even healthy individuals; those that are our high school athletes that are out doing 'two-a-days' playing football, our outdoor workers."
The report found health care facilities have their own effect on climate change and air pollution. It said the U.S. health care system is responsible for more than 8% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, with hospitals producing around 30 pounds of waste per patient each day.
Levy emphasized they can also be part of the solution, by doing more to minimize their environmental footprint.
The report also called attention to the importance of environmental justice.
Kirsten Minor, health manager for CleanAIRE NC, pointed out disadvantaged communities often suffer the most from air pollution. The report made five recommendations to help safeguard vulnerable populations, including stricter air quality standards, improved monitoring and enforcement, raising public awareness and involvement, adopting cleaner transportation, and promoting eco-friendly industrial practices.
Minor argued mitigating climate change is everyone's responsibility.
"It's an 'all hands on deck' approach," Minor stressed. "Engaging with community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, government, businesses, higher education institutions, students and youth. We all have a role to play."
The Environmental Protection Agency identifies transportation as the nation's primary contributor to emissions, but the report pointed out air pollution sources in North Carolina are varied, from power generation to farming, and industry to individual households.
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