Health impacts of climate change are already upon us, climate advocacy group says 

  • Teddy Rosenbluth—

Monitor staff
Published: 4/20/2022 4:07:11 PM
Modified: 4/20/2022 4:05:54 PM

In recent years, Dr. Patricia Edwards’ office has been inundated with tick-related calls.

Warmer temperatures brought on by climate change has allowed ticks, and the diseases they carry, to prosper in New Hampshire. The Concord pediatrician said she has seen an unprecedented number of children with Lyme disease and even more severe tick-borne illnesses.

“My nurses are fielding tick calls constantly— we can get a dozen a day,” she said. “I have pulled ticks off of newborn babies. We never had this before.”

Tick-borne illnesses are just one of a host of climate change-related health problems Granite Staters will have to worry about if urgent and immediate action is not taken, Healthcare Workers for Climate Action argued at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Doctors in New Hampshire are already seeing the fallout from a rapidly changing environment. There are more cases of asthma, brought on by air pollutants. People are developing allergies to non-native flowering plants that have grown because of warmer temperatures. The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services recently warned that tick-related emergency room visits have been on the rise since March.

Dr. Robert Feder, a Manchester psychiatrist and board member of HWCA, said more people will also struggle with climate anxiety as natural disasters become more frequent.

“Those are things we’re already seeing and they’re going to get worse,” Feder said.

Kaitlynn Liset, a registered nurse at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover and the chair of the New Hampshire Nurses Association’s commission on climate change action and health, said that climate change will also impact the healthcare system as a whole, as more demand for services will stress an already thin workforce.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the window to act on the climate crisis is closing and damage to the planet may soon be irreversible. Large policy changes need to be quickly implemented to stop devastating natural disasters and intense heat waves from taking hold, the report concluded.

Healthcare Workers for Climate Action, a newly formed advocacy group, presented a letter, signed by thousands of healthcare workers, to state legislators in the hopes it would spur laws to address the burgeoning health crisis.

“We in New Hampshire are no longer immune to poor air quality, extreme heat, flash flooding and it’s associated soil erosion and runoff contamination,” the letter read. “Unexpected drought has already happened this year...Everyone must do their bit and we need you, our leaders, to lead the way.”

Feder said he hopes legislation is passed that gives incentives to solar and wind energy and disincentivizes fossil fuels.

Rob Werner, the New Hampshire state director for the League of Conservation Voters, said multiple well-researched, inexpensive ways to transition away from fossil fuels already exist.

“Solutions are at hand,” he said. “It’s not a problem with finance. It’s not a problem in technology... It’s really a problem of decision.”

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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