Extreme weather, destruction reminders of urgent need for climate action

Date: Sep 18 2020

Contact: Media Relations

Wild fires, hurricanes and tropical storms are ramping up more than usual, while winter snow is pelting the Rocky Mountains days after temperatures hit 100 degrees, illustrating the urgent need to address climate change.

“Unfortunately, unpredictable, more severe weather patterns may become the new normal unless we immediately begin to seriously address climate change,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

In the last few weeks, historic fires have raged across the Pacific Northwest, fueled by intense heat, dry conditions and high winds, with nearly 1,000 wildfires in California alone since mid-August. The wildfires have killed dozens of people, burned millions of acres and wiped out entire communities. Right now, air on the West Coast is some of the most polluted on the planet.

“Breathing air filled with wildfire smoke can lead to respiratory crisis in even the healthiest among us,” Benjamin said.

Winter also blasted the Rockies this month, with intense storm warnings of large snowfalls, bitter winds and cold after a cascade of heat. Along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, seven storms made landfall this year, including Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane, which two weeks ago devastated parts of Louisiana and Texas, causing at least 16 deaths.

The news is a reminder that climate change remains one of the greatest public health threats of the 21st century. In addition to more extreme natural disasters, climate change worsens air and water pollution, exacerbates chronic illness and causes severe social and economic disruption. Disadvantaged communities, many of them already dealing with the legacy of environmental injustice, face the greatest climate risks.

To seriously address the growing climate threat, APHA calls on Congress to pass legislation to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure state and local health departments have the support they need to protect their communities from the health impacts of climate change.

“At APHA, we repeat our mantra: bold action is needed to clean up major sources of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, including power plants, cars, trucks and other mobile sources,” Benjamin said.

For more on climate and health, visit APHA


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.