Nurses Climate Change Toolkit

Overview

Public and environmental health professionals have recently given priority to addressing the human health impacts of air pollution and climate change. Air pollution from coal plant emissions contributes to four of the five top leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. In addition, the creation of greenhouse gas by power plants contributes to climate change, which the evidence strongly suggests is contributing to disease and premature deaths worldwide. As an example, heat waves are currently the #1 weather-related cause of death, with the elderly being particularly vulnerable. The public health community recognizes that not only are air pollution and climate change major threats to human health, but addressing this issue will require the input and cooperation of multiple organizations including the health care sector, and local, state, and federal agencies (APHA, 2011). Nurses are going to be on the front lines of any climate-related disaster, responding to public health impacts.

In the field of environmental health, one of the greatest ways to positively impact health outcomes is to influence the creation of laws that are more protective of our environment. Health care providers have a major role to play as trusted advocates for more protective environmental health policies. This includes educating the public and policy makers about climate change and associated health impacts. Nurses can decrease their contributions to climate change on a personal level by using less energy, utilizing public transportation options, reducing waste, and making changes to their diet such as eating less meat and buying local food. We can also be strong advocates in our professional settings for practices that have a lower climate footprint.

Resources

Nurses in the News