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11/21/2021

250th Podcast: Harvard's Dr. Aaron Bernstein Discusses COP 26, the National Academy's Climate Crisis Effort and Related Issues (November 19th)

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Concerning the recent United Nation’s COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, again unverifiable pledges were made moreover to cut methane gas emissions by 30% by 2030, limit deforestation and adequately finance converting to a green economy.  The US continued to exhibit intransience and/or fecklessness moreover by refusing to sign a pledge to phase out coal despite the fact it is the single biggest source of CO2 emissions worldwide and the fact the US still generates 20% of its electricity from coal. The US also continued to oppose adequately funding countries to recover (termed "loss and damage") from climate-fueled disasters - disproportionately caused by US carbon emissions.  The US is responsible for 40% of excess carbon emissions since 1750. Concerning the US's performance, the Third World Network's Meena Raman commented, "You walk out of the Kyoto Protocol [1997].  You walk out of Paris.  You come back and want us to think you're doing more?  What you're actually encouraging is people to walk out and then come back.  And then you're applauded."  Concerning the credibility of the US "doing more," earlier this week the Biden administration announced it would launch the largest ever auction of oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico. A decision Earthjustice defined as amounting to a “climate bomb.” As a related aside, the Biden administration has been to date issuing oil and gas drilling permits at a faster pace than the Trump administration. In sum, based on an analysis of countries’ 2030 GHG emissions goals, the latest Climate Action Tracker finding shows global warming doubling to 2.4 Celsius above pre-industrial levels, considerably warmer than the 2015 Paris Accord goal of 1.5 Celsius of warming - that substantially runs the risk of causing runaway global warming, or what's been termed Hothouse Earth.  As for the US healthcare industry’s considerable contribution to the climate crisis, the industry has still not taken any meaningful action.  This past Friday the House passed the Build Back Better (BBB) Act that would in part provide $550 billion to address the climate crisis, or in sum allow the US to get halfway to the Biden administration's goal to reduce emissions by approximately 50% (over a 2005 baseline) by 2030. Passage of BBB in the Senate is, as widely reported, in doubt.

Listeners may recall I interviewed Dr. Bernstein’s colleague, Dr. Renee Salas, in June and again in December 2019 regarding the climate crisis.

During this 33 minute conversation Dr. Bernstein begins by commenting on the COP 26 meeting and its results, comments on the clinicians' knowledge of the climate crisis (i.e., the John Kotcher survey that I discussed with Professor Kotcher on May 27th), C-CHANGE's policy work, use of Conditions of Participation and/or a value based payment system to regulatorily require hospitals to limit their carbon emissions (and the financial benefit thereof to hospitals), argues regulation is unnecessary to decarbonize healthcare if legislatively carbon fuels can be appropriately priced (i.e., externalize costs are accounted for), if not, use of regulatory payment incentives can be used to persuade providers.  Dr. Bernstein discusses the National Academy of Medicine's Action Collaborative's effort to decarbonize the healthcare industry and concludes with comments regarding the climate crisis in context of the current sixth mass extinction and in context of improving health equity.              

Dr. Aaron Bernstein is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and the Interim Director of Harvard's Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at the T.H. Chan Bernstein-Aaron School of Public Health. Dr. Bernstein has been a member of the Harvard President’s Climate Change Task Force and co-Chairs the University Food Standards Committee. He serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee, the Board of Scientific Counselors to the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and is Chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Green Building Council. In 2015, he was awarded a Lokey-Businesswire visiting professorship at Stanford University and has also been a visiting professor at Columbia University.  After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, he received graduate degrees in medicine (MD) and public health (MPH), from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, respectively. He is a recipient of Stanford University’s Firestone Medal for Research and a Harvard University Zuckerman Fellowship. An avid bicyclist, Dr. Bernstein pedals to and from work year-round

Information on Harvard's C-CHANGE program is at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/c-change/

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