Picking up the morning paper these days is almost guaranteed to deepen a pervasive and chronic sense of hopelessness and dismay on scanning the issues that crowd just the front page. The October 8th issue of the New York Times’ lead article by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis reported the latest data on what is arguably the most important threat to the survival of the human family: climate warming. The end of our ability to survive on the planet is virtually at hand: almost 100 scientists that made up a United Nations panel on climate change have issued a “dire” warning that efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions had to be put in place immediately to prevent lethal warming of the earth. Even more concerning was the observation that those efforts would have to put emissions on an “extremely steep downward curve before 2030.” The panel commented that the changes that need to be made require herculean – not to mention a universally collaborative – effort. Ominously, they predicted that we might not be able to scale up measures to reduce the global temperature in the brief time left to us.
Auden Schendler and Andrew Jones sounded a note of encouragement in their op-ed piece on the subject in the same issue of the Times in spite of their agreeing that the task was profoundly daunting: “Solving climate is going to be harder and more improbable, than winning World War II, achieving civil rights, defeating bacterial infection and sending a man to the moon all together.” They urged each one of us to contribute our individual effort to meeting the threat, including “voting, running for office, marching in protest, writing letters.” The work must be habitual, consistent and transform our personal contribution to solving the problem that will, unchecked, consume the human family.
The Nobel Committee chose the same day that the UN panel released its report to announce that one of the winners of the peace prize was Mr. William D. Nordhaus of Yale for his analysis of the impact of climate change on economies and advocated taxation of those who didn’t comply with best practices to contain carbon emissions. The award underscored the Nobel’s efforts to highlight the most important problems that beset not just one country, but the whole planet. Each one of us must become informed about the causes for this calamity and assume personal responsibility for joining with the groups addressing it most effectively.
We have so many catastrophes to face, it is hard to choose the most important. But the most compelling of all is this one. Climate warming, unchecked, will extinguish all the life on earth, probably for centuries to come — if it will be reversible at all. We have to make a consistent effort to modify the only environment over which we have absolute control: our own personal awareness of the reasons for and the nature of the lethal danger we face. One of the best sources of information and recommendations to reverse our current situation can be found by accessing https://climate.nasa.gov/. The site summarizes practical facts and suggestions about what individual and group efforts can achieve to save the planet. Access it today.
Dr. Marianne Legato, Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University is an internationally known academic physician, author, lecturer, and specialist in gender-specific medicine. She is founding member of the International Society for Gender Medicine and also the founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and its next iteration, The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. These enterprises are the first collaborations between academic medicine and the private sector focused solely on gender-specific medicine: the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and of how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender and sex. Her ground breaking textbook on Gender-and Sex Specific Medicine has been published in 2017 in the 3rd edition.
She has published extensively on Gender and Sex Specific Medicine, both scientifically and for the lay public. She is also the founding editor of the journal Gender Medicine, and the Journal Gender and Genome, published for the scientific community. In 1992, Dr. Legato won the American Heart Association’s Blakeslee Award for the best book written for the lay public on cardiovascular disease. She is a practicing internist in New York City and has been listed each year in New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” since the feature’s inception in 1993.