Surgeon General Calls Climate Change A 'Serious, Immediate And Global Threat To Human Health'

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07:  Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general, speaks while participating in a roundtable discussion on the
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07: Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general, speaks while participating in a roundtable discussion on the impacts of climate change on public health at Howard University with U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. President Obama is warning that climate change will start affecting Americans health in the near future and heâs recruiting top technology companies to help prepare the nationâs health systems. (Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Tuesday that climate change presents a "serious, immediate and global threat to human health," calling the danger a "sobering truth."

Murthy spoke before a gathering of health leaders that the White House hosted as part of a week of events intended to promote the Obama administration's actions to address climate change.

"We are not here today to debate whether or not climate change is real. We are not here to debate whether or not human activity is contributing to that. These questions have been settled by science," said Murthy. "We are here today as public health leaders, as policymakers, and as citizens of the planet to figure out what we are, in fact, going to do about climate change. That is the pressing question that stands before us."

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday released a study on the economic and social implications of climate change, finding that a global commitment to cutting climate-warming emissions could prevent 57,000 deaths by the year 2100 due to improved air quality.

At Tuesday's event, Murthy said that rising temperatures are causing more severe heat waves, longer allergy seasons and decreased air quality in cities. He also cited extreme weather events such as hurricanes and flooding, along with wildfires, as disasters that strain health care infrastructure and put people's health at risk.

Murthy's remarks came the same day that a number of leading doctors and public health experts wrote in the in the British medical journal The Lancet that climate change "threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health."

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