Tackling climate change presents a ‘golden opportunity’ for public health

For Carol Kelly, biking to and from work is a no-brainer: She doesn’t have to deal with the notorious Seattle traffic, she can exercise without visiting the dreary gym, and she saves money on gas.

And, of course, she acknowledges that her swap of a tailpipe for pedals contributes — at least in a small way — to tackling climate change.

“I don’t necessarily connect it to climate, but it’s a bonus,” said Kelly, 47, a fine arts professor at Seattle University, as she waited on her bike at a stop sign Friday evening in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle. “The planet is going to burn up. If everyone were on bikes, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem.”

Biking, walking, and other active forms of transportation are just a few ways that reducing our use of fossil fuels may benefit not only the planet but also our health and the economy, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday — to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City.

The new study also unveils the latest predictions for heat waves resulting from climate change in the decades ahead.

“It’s getting hotter,” said Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and lead author of the new study. “And it’s the extremes that matter most to public health.”

Even a small shift in average temperatures, say an increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit, can result in a large jump in the number of extremely hot days. Add in the extra variability in temperatures predicted with climate change and those dangerous extremes may become all the more frequent, as illustrated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Read more: http://grist.org/cities/tackling-climate-change-presents-a-golden-opportunity-for-public-health/