Pediatricians’ Rx: Vote for Climate Leaders

I ❤ Climate Voices
I Heart Climate Voices
4 min readOct 7, 2020


Pediatricians from all 50 states sound the alarm on the risks of climate change on children’s health and urge people to vote. It is the first time pediatricians from across the U.S. have come together to encourage voter registration.

Pediatricians lobbying for climate action. Virginia in 2019. Photo courtesy of Samantha Ahdoot.

As pediatricians from every state across America, we urge you to vote for leaders up and down the ballot who will take bold, decisive action on climate change to protect the health and future of our children.

Climate change lives in the bodies of children. In our hospitals and clinics, we see this every day. When wildfire smoke obscures the horizon in California, we think of our patients with asthma, struggling to breathe when they step outside. Pediatricians in Nevada worry for our infant and toddler patients, whose polluted lungs may never develop properly, leading to life-long breathing problems.

When suffocating summer heat descends day after day, we grieve for our newborn patients, whose tiny bodies cannot yet regulate temperature, leaving them vulnerable to illness and even death on extremely hot days. In Virginia’s record-breaking summer heat, pediatricians are concerned about pregnant women, who, when exposed to heat waves and pollution, are more likely to deliver premature babies.

When we experience extreme weather events and environmental disasters, like the “derecho” windstorm in Iowa or Hurricane Laura in Louisiana, pediatricians grieve for our patients who have lost their homes, schools, doctors’ offices or economic security. Traumatic events, what pediatricians call “adverse childhood experiences,” are toxic to children’s developing brains. Trauma such as losing a home can cause long-term mental and physical health problems. When children lose their sense of safety and stability, they lose part of their childhood.

These effects of climate change disproportionately harm children of color. Black and Latinx communities are often exposed to more air pollution because they are more likely to live near power plants, highways and factories, and climate change makes pollution worse. In cities like Baltimore, Richmond, and Boston, with histories shaped by discriminatory “redlining” policies, communities of color often have fewer trees and more asphalt, making them hotter and increasing exposure to extreme heat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened racial and socioeconomic health inequities. People from communities of color are more likely to be infected and more likely to be hospitalized. With the closures of public spaces, families without home air conditioning no longer have access to places to escape the heat, such as public pools and air-conditioned recreation centers. Widespread unemployment means that when extreme weather events occur, families have less of a safety net to rebuild or relocate.

At the same time, climate change is already altering disease patterns. In our pediatric clinics in Maine and Vermont, warming weather means that pediatricians are seeing dramatic increases in children with Lyme disease. Research suggests that climate change fueled the explosive spread of Zika virus in 2016. In 2019, Dengue Fever affected more people, in more places, than at any time in recorded history.

Climate change is here, and it harms children’s health. We must act now. Climate scientists from around the world estimate that we have just ten years to take drastic action, to avoid the worst-case scenarios. Ten years to cut carbon emissions, generate a robust renewable energy economy, and create climate-resilient cities and towns. The good news is that climate solutions — including accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy, investing in smart urban planning and transportation infrastructure, and securing a safer and more sustainable food system — immediately benefit children’s health, and advance health equity.

The November 2020 election will help set a course for our children, our country, and our future. A vote for climate leaders is a vote for children’s health across our nation. Your vote has never been more important.

Pediatrician signatories, by state:

Stephanie Berger, MD, Alabama

Amy Vagedes, DO, Alaska

Diane Hindman, MD, Arizona

Gary Wheeler, MD, Arkansas

Amanda Millstein, MD, California

Sheela Mahnke, MD, Colorado

Carl Baum, MD, Connecticut

Abby Nerlinger, MD, Delaware

Rani Gereige, MD, Florida

Rebecca Philipsborn, MD, Georgia

Brooke Hallett, MD, Hawaii

Elizabeth Kleweno, MD, Idaho

Nahiris Bahamón, MD, Illinois

Jillian Gorski, MD, Indiana

Robert Blount, MD, Iowa

Nefertiti Terrill-Jones, MD, Kansas

Julia Richerson, MD, Kentucky

Theresia Sutherlin, MD, Louisiana

Shalini Shah, DO, Massachusetts

Abby Fleisch, MD, Maine

Michael Ichniowski, MD, Maryland

Aristides Diamant, MD, Michigan

Brian Kirmse, MD, Mississippi

Elizabeth Friedman, MD, Missouri

Lisa Cinar, MD, Minnesota

Lori Byron, MD, Montana

Barbara Bentz, MD, North Dakota

Kimberly White, MD, Nebraska

Debra Hendrickson, MD, Nevada

Jeanne Craft, MD, New Jersey

Stephen Goldstein, MD, New York

Ryan Ratts, MD, New Hampshire

John Sutter, MD, New Jersey

Jennifer Achilles, MD, New Mexico

Stephanie Johannes, MD, North Carolina

Barbara Bentz, MD, North Dakota

Melody Lee, MD, Ohio

Rebecca Varkey, MD, Oklahoma

Peter Reed, MD, Oregon

Steph Lee, MD, Pennsylvania

Karen Maule, MD, Rhode Island

Martha Edwards, MD, South Carolina

Joseph Zenel, MD, South Dakota

Laurei Tucker, MD, Tennessee

Jessy George, MD, Texas

Hanna Saltzman, MD, Utah

Leslie Young, MD, Vermont

Samantha Ahdoot, MD, Virginia

Pragya Rai, MD, Washington

Kate Waldeck, MD, West Virginia

Andrew Lewandowski, DO, Wisconsin,

Travis Riddell, MD, Wyoming



I ❤ Climate Voices
I Heart Climate Voices

I Heart Climate Voices is a blog about the people and scientists who stand up for our climate. #StandUpforScience #ClimateJustice