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Change is Needed: Earth Day 2023

This blog post was written by Dr. Zoë Rammelkamp, our Climate Action Physician and leader of the Associated Physicians Green Team.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) came out with a report last month that was grim. For those who may not know, the IPCC is an international group of scientists who have been studying the expected trends in global warming under many different scenarios, including the scenario of no climate action. The most recent report made it clear that, as a society, we are not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial global surface temperatures by the end of the century. In fact, based on current projections published by the IPCC, we are likely to reach 3.2 degrees Celsius pre-industrial levels by 2100. This level of warming will have devastating impacts on food security, flooding, biodiversity, heatwaves, droughts, and so many more systems that affect human health. The IPCC report makes it clear that we need to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions as a worldwide society by the middle of this century. We likely will exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius limit, but hopefully, we can keep global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels.

Clearly, governments all over the world need to make massive investments in this beautiful planet in order to protect all of the species that live here, including our own. There is a widely-repeated goal for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and ultimately to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. One of the goals of the Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed by Congress last year, is to help our country meet these greenhouse gas reduction goals. Current estimates suggest that using the methods proposed in the Inflation Reduction Act will help the United States reduce its dependence on greenhouse gases by about 40% by 2030.2

So, while I am a big fan of that goal, a 40% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is not quite good enough to prevent the climate disaster that we are currently on track for. That is why businesses and independent households should also feel empowered to analyze their current carbon footprint and figure out how they can do better. For example, at Associated Physicians, we have established a Green Team, which is a group of enthusiastic volunteers who care about protecting planet Earth and want to make this organization as environmentally sustainable as we possibly can. This group of volunteers came together in the summer of 2022, so we are still a relatively young group. Nevertheless, we have achieved a few exciting wins over the past eight months. The achievement that I am most excited to share with everyone is our reduction in paper use. Prior to the formation of the Green Team, Associated Physicians was getting hundreds and hundreds of faxes on a weekly basis; most of these were getting printed out. Now, thanks to our Health Information Management team, most of these faxes are no longer being printed; instead, they get scanned electronically into the computer and viewed on the computer screen. While this is a small victory in the grand scheme of things, it still fills me with hope that our organization can continue to make changes that will protect this planet that we all depend on so much.

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