Renee Salas is an emergency medicine doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. For her, global warming is not some abstract, future threat.

“I’m already seeing ways in which climate change is contributing to health harms in my patients in Boston today,” Salas says, “whether it’s illness due to more extreme heat, like an elderly man living in lower income housing without air conditioning, suffering heat stroke … or a young girl with repeated emergency department visits due to asthma attacks as climate change drives pollen to be higher.”

Global warming is also worsening wildfires, which create smoke that’s harmful to breathe. It’s increasing the prevalence of tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses. And it’s causing more extreme and dangerous storms.

The consequences go beyond human suffering. Increased hospital admissions, emergency department visits, and long-term treatment cost a lot of money.

“It can fall on the individual. It can fall on the insurance company or the government … or on the hospital system,” Salas says. “So that means we’re all bearing the burden in some way.”

So she says everyone must work together to get to the root cause and reduce global warming.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Diana Madson