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From extreme heat to dangerous floods, the effects of climate change can put people’s health at risk.

So as a family physician in Madison, Wisconsin, Claire Gervais believes she has a responsibility to advocate for climate action.

“A lot of us feel a calling, because of our profession, to be involved in this work,” she says.

She says it starts with taking a hard look at the role of the healthcare industry itself.

“Healthcare systems create about 10% of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So we’re responsible in some ways for climate change, and we really need to step up to that,” Gervais says.

As a member of Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action, she’s encouraging healthcare facilities to cut carbon pollution.

The nonprofit recommends that hospitals make changes such as installing energy-efficient lights, using renewable electricity, reducing medical waste, and serving more plant-rich meals.

“One really interesting example is in the surgical suite. There are certain anesthetic gases that contribute to climate change. And there are alternatives and they’re actually cheaper,” Gervais says.

So she says reducing carbon pollution not only protects the climate and public health, but it can also help hospitals save money.

Also see: How climate change threatens public health

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media