Renee Salas, Emergency Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University
The environmental damage we cause by continuing to burn fossil fuels affects children most, including yours. While the studies on climate change are still emerging, there has been enough research to result in a broad scientific agreement that climate change is negatively affecting children’s health. In fact, one study estimated that about 88 percent of the disease from climate change afflicts children.
As an emergency medicine physician in Boston seeing these consequences, I have had a growing realization that my responsibility to protect my patients, especially vulnerable groups such as children, has to also include speaking up about the forces that impact them outside of the hospital.
Frederica P. Perera, a professor of environmental health sciences and director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, recently released a review article showing yet again how air pollution and climate change interact to multiply the negative health effects children face.
The truth is gravely startling. Ever since the industrial revolution, we’ve been dependent on fossil fuels to make energy. In 2011, 82 percent of our energy came from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are largely coal and natural gas but also include diesel fuel, gasoline, and oil. A broad range of air pollutants are created when these are burned to produce electricity or heat or used in transportation and industry.