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Climate Change "A Health Emergency," Say 74 Medical Organizations In New Report

Smoke from fires on the North Rim in Arizona in July 2018.
Smoke from fires on the North Rim in Arizona in July 2018.

Medical and public-health groups are calling climate change "a health emergency," in a new report released Monday. Organizations like the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association are demanding elected officials and other leaders to prioritize action.

The agenda calls on the U.S. to meet and strengthen commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. It also asks national, state and local governments to invest dollars towards climate-health risks. That includes addressing wildfire smoke.

"We have to start getting ready and treating this as something that we have to deal with every year," said Julia Reed. She works for the Mayor's Office in Seattle, which is already taking action. This summer, the city will be outfitting five public buildings to serve as smoke shelters during wildfire season. That way, citizens have a place to come breathe clean air.

"One of the challenges here is that there aren't really a lot of established models to look back on because the climate has changed so quickly," she said.

The science behind smoke shelters is still pretty new, but Reed said it's something we will likely see more of as wildfire seasons grow more intense across our region.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

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