To the Editor:
Though many are unaware or disbelieving, Montanans, like people everywhere, are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Many of those come in the form of detrimental impacts on our health.
Following information presented in the original Montana Climate Assessment in 2017, the recently released C2H2 report, short for “Climate Change and Human Health in Montana: A Special Report of the Montana Climate Assessment,” analyzed evidence from a wide range of sources. Key findings include that the areas of greatest concern for climate impacts in Montana are increased temperatures and periods of extreme heat, worsening air quality, primarily from wildfires, and more frequent climate surprises, such as flooding and extreme weather events.
The report details direct connections between climate and health, such as the association of heat stroke and dehydration in higher temperatures, or increased risks of asthma attacks, even premature births, heart attacks and strokes from worsening air quality.
More subtle, but no less important, are links between both warmer temperatures and drought to decreased crop productivity and lowered nutritional content of grains. Perhaps least recognized by many are the connections between higher temperatures with increased mental health issues, including depression, domestic violence and suicide.
In addition to the extensive supportive evidence cited in the C2H2 report, one of its greatest strengths lies in the diverse recommendations it contains for addressing climate change. These include actions for individuals, healthcare professionals, organizations and elected officials.
The first step in each is to acknowledge that climate change is a problem. This Earth Day let’s start talking about solutions.
Marian Kummer, MD