June 02, 2017
2 min read
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ACP: Withdrawal from Paris Agreement undermines health threats from climate change

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President Donald J. Trump announced on June 1 that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 multinational Paris climate agreement to reduce global warming and the greenhouse effect.

This withdrawal will “greatly undermine” the global effort to curb the damaging impact of climate change on human health, according to a press release issued by ACP.

“Climate change needs to be aggressively addressed on a global level, and the Paris accord is central to this effort,” Jack Ende, MD, MACP, president of ACP, said in a press release. “Through the Paris agreement, the U.S. — the world’s second largest carbon emitter — joined with all but two countries to commit to policies to prevent and mitigate the impact of global warming on human health. Without U.S. leadership, achieving the voluntary targets agreed to by the 195 countries that signed the accord will be far more difficult. Today’s decision therefore greatly increases the chances that the global effort to reduce carbon emissions will be insufficient to avert catastrophic consequences for human health.”

In 2016, ACP published a paper in Annals of Internal Medicine, outlining the negative consequences of climate change on public and individual health and offering five specific recommendations to mitigate such threats. Potential health effects of climate change include higher rates of respiratory and heat-related illnesses, increased prevalence of diseases passed by insects, water-borne diseases, food and water insecurity and malnutrition and behavioral health problems, according to ACP. The elderly, the sick and the poor are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change.

“Climate change is real, is largely the result of human activity, and is already affecting our health,” Ende said. “ACP is very concerned about the harmful health effects that climate change is having on our patients. Instead of withdrawing from commitments it made through the Paris agreement and rolling back regulations to reduce carbon emissions, the U.S. should be taking even more aggressive action now to protect the health of our community’s most vulnerable members — including our children, our seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and the poor — because our climate is already changing and people are already being harmed. We call on President Trump to reconsider his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, and for Congress, state and local governments, U.S. companies, physicians, hospitals, and others to do everything in their power to ensure that this country meets its obligations.”

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ACP previously condemned Trump’s executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back U.S. efforts to combat air pollution, arguing that the order “will have a devastating impact on public health.”

Conversely, Tom Price, MD, HHS Secretary, issued a statement praising Trump’s announcement on the Paris agreement.

“The Paris agreement is a bad deal for the American people,” he said. “I applaud President Trump’s leadership and the actions he is taking.”

“At [HHS], it is our mission to promote and protect the health and well-being of the American people. This includes an already existing, robust commitment to advancing public health security both here at home and through partnerships with other nations,” he added.

Disclosure: Healio Internal Medicine was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.