New England is extremely vulnerable to climate change. We’re seeing more severe storms like Tropical Storm Sandy, changing rainfall patterns, increased heat, a spike in tick-borne illnesses, and increased and more severe flood impacts. It’s a crisis not only for the environment, but also for the health of our communities.
The good news is that we still have time to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But to do so we must take immediate action.
Climate Change Is Urgent
The urgency of climate change is difficult to conceptualize because it reaches across generations. We’ve known for years that burning fossil fuels changes our climate, but until recently, it was easier to ignore the impacts of a warming world.
Especially now, we have to think about what the consequences of our actions will be in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years. Doing nothing is a risk of its own. It’s almost a guarantee of more severe implications and costs into the future. Doing nothing means ever-worsening disasters.
If we don’t respond quickly, the range of measures needed to protect our communities and push back against climate catastrophe will become much more difficult to accomplish.
Climate Change Is a Public Health Threat
Those who work in public health also see a deep connection between the health of the environment and the health of individual people.
Heat waves are a health hazard. Those who work outside, particularly in rural areas, are unable to escape from the physical stress of extreme heat. In cities, the heat island effect – where large areas of concrete with no trees are noticeably hotter than areas with green space – can worsen conditions like headaches and heatstroke. For people without A/C, which is much of northern New England as well as low-income communities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut – a 90-degree day spent indoors can exacerbate asthma and respiratory issues. And without A/C, no matter where you are, getting a good night’s sleep while temperatures soar is nearly impossible.
Climate change also increases the rate of both toxic algae outbreaks and tick-borne illnesses. It worsens the impacts of storms, leading to flooding and ruined crops. (And that doesn’t even account for those killed during climate-driven disasters like hurricanes, or the mental stress caused by severe droughts, local wildfires, and other economic fallout.)
This is a particularly vulnerable time for vulnerable people, too. People with low socio-economic status who lack access to safe housing or healthcare, people who have chronic conditions like asthma and COPD, elderly people and children – all of them are at serious risk.
We Need to Stop Using Fossil Fuels
New England’s one principle enemy is the fossil fuels that cause climate change. Up to 50% of our pollution must be reduced by the year 2030 if we are to have a chance of holding off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Reaching that goal means decarbonizing our economy, building out clean energy like solar and wind, and reimagining our transportation system to be fossil free. We need all of these pillars, working together, to cut our climate-damaging emissions to zero while supporting a robust economy.
This is something we can accomplish through local action. Pushing our state governments to pass strong climate laws, promoting bold energy efficiency programs and the use of clean energy, and electrifying our cars, trucks, and buses.
Only Systemic Change Can Solve Climate Change
It will take systemic change in the way we do business, the way we govern, and the way we guide people to solve climate change and move into the next century. We can’t keep doing things the way we always have. But using with the ingenuity and innovation our region is known for, we can build a better New England for everyone.
And that’s what CLF does. CLF is all about moving the needle on systemic change so that there is a bit of a revolution that makes for change for the good – not only for the climate, but for our economy and our people.
Join us in this fight for a healthy, thriving New England, for all.