Public Health Consequences of Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord

WASHINGTON, DC (June 1, 2017) — On June 1, 2017 President Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris climate accord. Lynn R. Goldman, MD, Dean of Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, issued this statement:

The President’s decision to pull out of this historic global agreement signals this Administration’s disregard for widely accepted scientific evidence that climate change is real and a threat we can no longer ignore.

We all depend on clean air, clean water and a predictable, healthy environment.  As science tells us, our world is getting warmer and with the rising temperatures comes the threat that deadly diseases will emerge and spread. Already, the world has seen the rise of Zika virus infection and yellow fever, both of which are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is becoming more widespread as temperatures go up.

Unless we reverse course and start to take action on climate change now, we will experience even more severe problems with rising sea levels, flooding, intense storm surges and hurricanes. Air quality will worsen as ozone and particulate matter increase, which in turn will increase risks of asthma and cardiovascular disease. Rising temperatures will lead to more wildfires as well as deaths from heat stroke.

Those are just a few of the public health consequences of the President’s decision. We don’t have the luxury of a wait-and-see approach. Fortunately, most of the nations in the world are staying in the Paris accord.  Even states, especially California, are stepping out to assume a leadership role in this arena by reducing pollution and investing in the clean energy economy.  Likewise, many business leaders are investing in renewable, clean energy and are voluntarily reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

These steps are not enough.  The US needs to be a leader in reducing pollution and in creating an economy that depends on clean energy.  All of us, including legislators, scientists, public health leaders, consumers and business leaders, have roles to play in achieving a cleaner, more sustainable world. Our health and the health of the planet depend on it. 

For media inquiries, or to schedule an interview with Dean Lynn R. Goldman, please contact Kathleen Fackelmann at kfackelmann@gwu.edu or (202) 994-8354.