How the health care sector contributes to climate change: a research roundup
Author: Kerry Dooley Young
The health care industry “is among the most carbon-intensive service sectors in the industrialized world,” accounting for between 4.4% and 4.6% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a key paper on this topic, published in 2020 in Health Affairs. In the United States, the toll is particularly heavy. It’s estimated that the health care sector produced about 8.5% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to that paper. It also notes the U.S. medical system may be responsible for about a quar of all global health care greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the health care system of any other nation. Organizations that sign the pledge have agreed to try to reduce emissions linked to climate change by 50% by 2030, from a baseline level set no earlier than 2008. “Mandated emissions reporting would inform science-based interventions and facilitate rapid adoption of sustainable health care practices that could dramatically reduce health care pollution and improve public health,” they write. Among the questions CMS posed was whether hospitals or health systems are setting “time-bound, public aims” for addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.