Addressing the Adverse Health Effects of  

Climate Change in New York State 

Recommendations for Protecting New Yorkers’ Health and Safety from Global Warming and Climate Instability  

By the Medical Society of the State of New York 

Preventive Medicine and Family Health Committee   


Executive Summary:

Humanity faces an unprecedented existential threat from climate instability and global temperature rise caused by human activities, most notably the emission of greenhouse gases from combustion of fossil fuels. The threat to human health from climate instability has been called the greatest of the 21st century.4 New York State does not escape this threat. The Medical Society of the State of New York acknowledges that immediate action is needed to prevent catastrophic health effects related to climate instability.4 Physicians must warn society and advocate for protecting the health of our patients and communities. The pandemic of SARS CoV2 has revealed many weaknesses in our ability to meet large scale disasters that must be rapidly addressed if New York is to meet the challenges posed by climate change.

The Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) presents this white paper to guide stakeholders including physicians, MSSNY members, healthcare organizations, community members, policy makers and legislators on actions needed to protect the health of New Yorkers. This paper focuses on direct (e.g., injuries/deaths) and indirect (e.g., reduced nutrients in crops) health effects driven by fossil fuel combustion and climate instability. We address: 1) the evidence for global warming and climate instability; 2) the observed and projected environmental changes in New York State; 3) the observed and projected health and safety consequences of these changes; and 4) recommendations to mitigate, adapt and protect New Yorkers from climate change. 

The path ahead will stress the health sector in unprecedented ways, yet solutions bring profound opportunities to provide immediate benefits—if New York State converted to 100% renewables, reductions in air pollution would save 4000 lives and $33 billion annually in health care costs.7 Therefore, we also highlight the specific and immediate health benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

MSSNY aligns with climate science experts who have sounded the alarm—the threats to New York are profound and time is limited. Climate instability is already hurting New Yorkers and will continue to do so for decades to come even with aggressive reductions in emissions. We therefore make specific calls to action by key stakeholders to protect all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. The silver lining is that—if everyone acts—we will see immediate health benefits. The challenges ahead cannot be met by the medical community alone. Every sector of society must come together to create a unified and sustained response to the looming threats. MSSNY therefore recommends that governmental and non-governmental leaders join with the medical and scientific communities to combat global warming and to create a healthier, safer environment for all New Yorkers.  

A complete copy of the paper can be found HERE.