Cycling doctor to discuss climate change action plan in Missoula

2013-08-04T21:20:00Z 2013-08-04T21:31:55Z Cycling doctor to discuss climate change action plan in Missoula Ravalli Republic
August 04, 2013 9:20 pm

A doctor who’s biking across the country to raise awareness about climate change will share her action plan on Wednesday in Missoula.

Dr. Wendy Ring will talk about the health impacts of climate change and her organization, Climate 911, at 7 p.m. at Adventure Cycling, 150 E. Pine St. The two-hour session includes time for discussion and questions.

Last year, Ring biked across the country and Climate 911 was came about from the trip and interactions with people along the way. This year, Ring is collecting support for the organization’s Prescription for Climate Action and will be joined by other health care professionals in Washington, D.C., in October to hand out endorsed “prescriptions” to lawmakers.

The plan calls for five things by 2030: 50 percent decrease in motor vehicle emissions; 50 percent of all electricity generated from clean, renewable resources; 40 percent of all daily trips made by cycling, walking or public transport; 30 percent increase in energy efficiency for buildings; and 20 percent increase in consumption of vegetables and decrease in meat and corn sugar consumption.

Changes called for in the plan would help decrease instances of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases that researchers say are increasing because of climate change’s impacts, said Ring, who holds a master’s degree in public health and was medical director for a California community health center for more than 20 years.

Simple solutions exist, and Climate 911’s prescription includes thing that most people can get behind in the name of public health, she said.

“We’re just trying to build the political will to get them done,” she said.

Doctors are in a good position to help build that political will because they see the health impacts of climate change regularly and are excellent at explaining complicated science to the average person, Ring said.

Health impacts, though, often aren’t the primary point when people talk about climate change, said Suzanne Aboulfadl.

“It’s something that sometimes gets lost in those discussions. We know about general effects, and we know about other effects of fossil fuels but I don’t know that we think as much about health impacts and that’s (Ring’s) focus,” she said.

Aboulfadl heads up the local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, a national organization that seeks to empower citizens to intelligently talk about climate change and influence their local leaders. Last year, the group arranged meetings between Ring and congressional staff members.

The group is proposing a carbon tax on fossil fuels at their source. That tax revenue would then be distributed to people.

A carbon tax would increase the cost of fossil fuels, spurring energy companies to invest in green energy.

“And make it an economically sound decision for energy companies to seek out alternative energy sources and to make small energy, green energy, sources more competitive in a market that’s now dominated by large energy companies,” Aboulfadl said.

While Ring’s Climate 911 is not the same, the overall vision is the same, Aboulfadl said.

“I think the way it works together is our common concern about climate change and our awareness of the need to have some specific proposals turned into congress,” she said.

Ultimately, Ring said, her approach takes several different tacts, much as doctors use multi-faceted approaches to help patients.

“That’s the same thing we’re talking about here,” she said.

For more on Ring and Climate 911, go to climate911.org.

Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at alice.miller@missoulian.com.

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