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Wisconsin Medical Professionals Share Climate Change Concerns, Support Clean Energy Policy Changes


Clean air, safe drinking water, and secure shelter can all impact a person’s health. They’re also all threatened by climate change.

Beyond that, it’s the impacts we don’t know that has some medical experts in Wisconsin worried.

“We have folks that are in our field or are scientists, they don’t often know the links climate and health. It’s one of those things that’s a global problem that has local consequences,” said Dr. Chirantan Mukhopadhyay. He’s on ophthalmologist and chair of Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action.

Mukhopadhyay was one of several health professionals that spoke at a panel hosted by Wisconsin Environment to raise awareness about the connect between our health and the Earth’s rapidly changing climate.

They all come from different medical backgrounds but spoke to the impacts they’re already seeing.

“The human is a tiny organ that’s 6 cubic centimeters in volume and we’re putting it in an oven. That’s going to have profound impacts on the health of eye,” said Mukhopadhyay.

Dr. Pamela Guthman spoke to the increase in asthma-related emergency room visits she’s seen and will likely continue to see more of as our air quality worsens.

“Think about seeing your loved one suffer from asthma and having them have air hunger. The way I describe air hunger is when you start to see them turn blue where they become synodic around the outside of their lips because of the lack of oxygen, and you see them gasping for air,” said Guthman.

Dr. Andrew Lewandowksi shared the heartache of seeing babies born premature and all the complications that come with it.

“There’s no lab test that I’m going to do that’s going to show that climate change is in that child or chest x-ray that’s going prove climate change,” said Lewandowski. “But what we know from our population health studies is that air pollution and extreme heat, for example, increase pre-term birth.”

They all agree that it will take everyone working together to make strides in fighting climate change.

That’s why, even as medical professionals, they support actions like President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan to address climate or Governor Evers’ task force dedicated to the issue.

“When it comes to action at the federal, state, and individual levels, it’s absolutely important to recognize that the shift that we’re seeing that supports a clean energy economy is crucial because our lives, our neighbors lives and especially our children’s lives literally depend on it,” said Lewandowski.

Guthman encouraged people to act sooner than later.

“It’s very clear. We can’t wait.  Instead, every single person from policy maker to every community person has to show moral courage for policy initiatives to seek innovative approaches so that we can combat the climate change that’s going to affect the health of you your loved ones and your communities,” said Guthman.

In a report last November, Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center laid out a transformative vision for stronger, more sustainable national infrastructure that would support public health, the environment and build a future powered by clean energy. 

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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