Altered climate conditions in Maine, characterized by shorter winter seasons with reduced snowfall and resulting in overall warmer temperatures, exert a noteworthy influence on public health. This impact extends across diverse facets of well-being, encompassing aspects ranging from air quality to the proliferation of diseases.
The following are some key areas where climate change influences health in Maine:
- Air Quality: Increasing temperatures and changes in weather patterns can worsen air quality. This can exacerbate respiratory issues and lead to an increase in allergies and asthma. In Maine, higher temperatures might result in more frequent and severe heatwaves, potentially affecting vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
- Vector-Borne Diseases: Climate change can influence the geographic range and prevalence of vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Maine is among the states heavily affected by Lyme disease due to the expanding range of ticks as temperatures become more suitable for their survival. This puts individuals at risk of contracting these diseases, leading to significant health challenges.
- Waterborne Diseases: Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can impact water quality. Heavy rainfall events might lead to flooding, affecting water supplies and increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. Inadequate sanitation and water quality can contribute to the spread of illnesses, impacting public health in the state.
- Allergens: Longer growing seasons are causing an increase in allergens and allergies and exacerbating already high asthma rates.
- Mental Health Impacts: Climate change-related events such as extreme weather events, coastal erosion, and changes in livelihoods due to shifts in agriculture or fishing can lead to stress, anxiety, and mental health issues among affected communities. Displacement due to climate-related disasters can also contribute to mental health challenges.
- Impact on Vulnerable Communities: Vulnerable populations, including low-income individuals, the elderly, and marginalized communities, are disproportionately affected by climate change. These groups may face increased health risks due to limited access to resources, healthcare, and infrastructure to cope with the impacts of a changing climate.
If left unchecked, these impacts will worsen and result in even more devastating impacts in the future. Efforts to address these health impacts include public health interventions, such as increased monitoring and surveillance of diseases, education and awareness programs, and infrastructure improvements to better handle extreme weather events. Additionally, initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources can mitigate the health risks associated with climate change.
As a trusted health voice, PSR Maine is working to educate key stakeholders about climate and its impacts on health, and to promote climate friendly policies that benefit health as well as the environment. To that end, PSR Maine is working with nonprofit and government partners on a just transition to ‘building electrification’ across the state.
Maine Won’t Wait is ‘Maine’s climate action plan that includes policies and initiatives to decrease harmful greenhouse gases, transition to clean energy and to protect Mainers. Follow the link to find Information on health impacts, stories across Maine and information on climate action goals.
The process to update the climate action plan is underway now. More information on the process and Maine Climate Action Council can be found here.
Op-ed in the Bangor Daily News by Daniel Oppenheim, MD, PSR Maine member.
Portland Press Herald The Maine Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which represents more than 3,000 health care professionals and health advocates statewide, also issued a statement that warned withdrawal…