Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health by Jay Lemery, MD, and Paul Auerbach, MD, is a wide-reaching yet concise review of the evidence for the health consequences of climate change. One of the strengths of this work is the authors’ assertion that while the environmental, geopolitical, and economic consequences of climate change will be dramatic, it is ultimately the health consequences of a changing planet that will be the most tangible and immediate. Therefore, although physicians are not uniquely qualified to discourse on the science of climate, they are experts in the domain of human disease. Thus, the medical profession has a responsibility to shape the public conversation about the effect of climate change. To that end, the authors propose the field of “Enviromedics,” a term they coined to encompass the manifold effects of weather and environmental conditions on health. This encompasses everything from the changing ranges of endemic diseases to the primary and secondary effects of severe weather.
Enviromedics takes the form of a series of gripping case studies that introduce each body of literature on a number of side effects of climate change. Some of the topics touched on in this book are:
- The direct effect of increased heat
- The effects of extreme weather
- The change in distribution and burden of vector-borne diseases
- The direct and indirect effect of climate degradation on mental health
- Air pollution and degradation
- Dramatically increasing food and water insecurity
- Increased load of allergens
- Harmful algal blooms
- Loss of potential new therapeutics derived from natural sources
- Degradation of complex ecosystems that support health
Being faced with these insults from such a wide array of sources is shocking and highlights the magnitude of climate change in a way that impersonal statistics cannot. Without getting into the politics that surround the issues of climate change, Lemery and Auerbach make one of the most compelling cases for climate action that I have yet read. At a manageable 146 pages of text, Enviromedics is an excellent introduction to the science of environmental medicine and serves as a powerful call to action for medical and lay readers alike.
As health professionals, we have a responsibility to care for patients holistically. This means taking the time to address the underlying causes of disease and putting in the effort to prevent the emergence and worsening of illness. Historically, this has involved not only obtaining appropriate screening tests, but recommending lifestyle interventions, and advocating for health promotion policies. To this laudable mission Lemery and Auerbach convincingly argue for the importance of pursuing climate justice for our patients.