Not long before writing this column, The Washington Post published an article noting that 2020 tied with 2016 as Earth’s hottest year.1 This occurred even as U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 dropped by more than 10% during the year as a result of intermittent COVID-19-related lockdowns and its consequences, including, in part, more working from home, less car commuting, and also less overall air travel.2 Some European cities, like Milan, Italy, invested in new cycling infrastructure during the pandemic as people also avoided public transit. Even though personal behavior can incrementally influence our climate and health, people and policy are intertwined drivers of climate and environmental change.
Like this pandemic, climate change respects no borders, making global climate commitments essential to preserve precious shared environmental resources and motivate human behavior with fewer negative environmental impacts. As the pandemic continues, so, too, do other urgent contemporary public health priorities, as Jean Kutner, SGIM president, reminds us. SGIM experts, leaders, and advocates in climate health share their insights on advancing climate justice, promoting climate health education of the public and medical communities, and improving patients’ and population health. As you read articles in this first-ever Forum theme issue on climate change and health, I encourage you to also explore the informative references that authors cite, including important policy statements, government reports, position papers, and research articles.
We have an engaged and forward-thinking Forum associate editor team to thank for highlighting climate change and health in this special theme issue. I hope you find this to be a springboard for continuous learning and inspiration on how you can engage in climate advocacy and care for patients affected by climate change.