Various civil society and side events are held around the United Nations Climate Summit, which was held in New York City in September. The summit highlights global climate change and engages commitments for a low carbon economy to mitigate climate change. Janet Rankin, a professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, was on the planning committee for “Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health,” introduced Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, and served as moderator on the Active Transportation panel, where she announced the new American College of Sports Medicine initiative ActivEarth. This initiative focuses on increasing physical activity by making active transportation accessible and safe.
The Active Transportation panel was comprised of prominent scientists and leaders who spoke about the urgency of climate change impact, as well as the opportunities for public health when advances are made to mitigate climate change. The panel included Sir Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet; Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator; Maria Neira, Director of WHO department of public Health and Social Determinants of Health; Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, U.S. Acting Surgeon General; and John Balbus, NIH.
With the transportation sector emitting nearly 25 percent of all energy-related CO2 globally, presenters agreed that cities are crucial to action on climate change and health as they consume most of the world’s energy and are high carbon producers. Panelists shared how programs like “Complete Streets,” “Safe Routes to School,” and the design of bikeways and bike sharing networks connect active transport to priorities such as traffic safety, congestion, social equity, air quality, and economic development. Research demonstrates that substituting short car trips with walking or biking has important co-benefits of health, improved environment, and sustainable economy. Changing every day patterns of people can have large impacts on personal and planetary health.
ACSM’s civil society event focused on the link between climate change and health with “Sustainable Communities, Active Lives: Active Transportation and Urban Design.” They partnered with the Public Health Institute, the Global Climate Health Alliance, and the University of Wisconsin on this event.