Climate Change

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Climate Change is recognized by the American Nurses Association (ANA) as an unprecedented phenomena threatening human and environmental health. In 2008, ANA’s House of Delegates passed a resolution, entitled Global Climate Change. This resolution encourages nurses to “advocate for change on both individual and policy levels; to support local public policies that endorse sustainable energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and… to support initiatives to decrease the contribution to global warming by the healthcare industry.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a group of respected international scientists that have studied the issue of climate change for years. They state that the climate system is warming unequivocally. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center reports an approximate global surface temperature increase of 0.74 degrees Celsius and the sea level rise of an average of about 1.7 millimeters/year over the past century.

Greenhouse gases trap solar radiation, retaining it in Earth’s lower atmosphere. This process keeps Earth mostly temperate and inhabitable. However, recent human activity is manufacturing huge quantities of greenhouse gases which is affecting Earth’s climate. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the four major greenhouse gases created due to human activity are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.

Climate change has profound impacts on human health. Increased temperatures exacerbate heat-related illnesses and certain chronic diseases. Warmer climates increase the incidence of vector-borne diseases. Extreme weather events brought about by climate change displace populations, cause injury, and affect safe food and water supplies.

Nurses need to examine their personal and professional lives for opportunities to decrease green house gas emissions. Since some amount of climate change is inevitable, nurses also need to prepare and adapt their practice for the changes it brings. The resources listed below will assist nurses in climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as understand the science behind this issue. 

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