Keynote Speakers to Highlight Health Effects of Climate Crisis and Strategies for the Future

Mary Berlik Rice, MD, MPH
Mary Berlik Rice, MD, MPH

On Monday morning, May 16, the Keynote Series will turn its focus to the impact of climate change, including the health consequences of burning fossil fuels, strategies for medical professionals to address the climate crisis, and how to recognize health implications of policy measures that address fossil fuel combustion. Cutting Through the Smoke: Confronting the Climate Crisis Through Patient Care and Policy begins at 8:15 a.m. PT in Room 7-8 (South Building, Exhibition Level), Moscone Center.

Mary Berlik Rice, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and the 68th U.S. Secretary of State, will address how medical professionals can accelerate action to confront the climate crisis.

Air pollution caused by the combustion of fossil fuels results in an estimated 350,000 premature deaths and numerous respiratory illnesses annually in the United States. The burning of fossil fuels also creates greenhouse gases that cause climate change, leading to heatwaves, wildfires, ozone smog pollution, and more potent pollen seasons — all of which are harmful to people with lung disease.

Dr. Rice, former chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee, will outline the impacts of the burning of fossil fuels and climate change on respiratory health, as well as opportunities to address the crisis through patient care, research, and advocacy.

John Kerry
John Kerry

“I would like to see pulmonologists and health care professionals become thought leaders on the issue of climate change. I think it is within our reach for the medical profession to move the global economy away from fossil fuel combustion for energy for the sake of clean air and human health,” Dr. Rice said in an ATS Community profile. “We have made a powerful stance against tobacco. We can make an equally powerful stance against fossil fuel burning. But to do so, we need to stop thinking of climate change as a political issue and recognize it as a public health problem.”

Sec. Kerry, who will participate by video, will highlight needed action from the government and the private sector to confront this health crisis.

“We’re all in this together, and we’ve got to get more nations to step up, which is obviously one of the great efforts at the State Department,” Sec. Kerry explained in an Earth Day #AskStateAnything! interview on Twitter.

He said the department is working to help countries overcome challenges to deploying renewable energy through funding and technology. Private business also needs to be part of the clean energy equation, Sec. Kerry noted.

“We are trying very hard to lead a number of initiatives that are bringing the private sector to the table so that we have a huge level of investment in new technologies and in the changes necessary to move to a clean economy,” he said.

Don’t Miss ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand

Don’t forget that ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand are available to all conference registrants! On Demand will give you access to the Opening Ceremony, Plenary Session, Keynote Series, Clinical Year in Review, Adult Clinical Core Curriculum, and so much more. The topics will cover ILD, asthma, health equity, and CF, to name just a few. On Demand content will be accessible to all ATS 2024 full conference and On Demand registrants until March 2025.