Healthcare Facilities at Risk of More Climate Events if Emissions Aren't Reduced

Negligent climate actions are taking years off of people’s lives.

By Mackenna Moralez

A report from the World Economic Forum found that healthcare systems contribute more than 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. However, that number increases to 10 percent of national emissions for most industrialized nations. According to the report, hospitals have the highest energy intensity of all publicly funded buildings and emit at least 2.5 times more greenhouse gasses than any other commercial buildings.  

These negligent climate actions are not only costing more money, but they are also taking years off of people’s lives.  

Nearly 98,000 deaths each year can be attributed to the healthcare industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by the Ways and Means Committee. Just between the years of 2000 and 2017, there were 114 hospital evacuations due to climate catastrophes.  

In September, several Tampa Bay hospitals were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Ian, while others canceled noncritical surgeries and appointments. Nursing homes also evacuated residents in areas that were the highest risk of the storm.  Meanwhile, HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital was heavily damaged during the storm, forcing the facility to close key services for renovations throughout the month of October. The hospital lost a layer of its roof due to high winds, causing several water leaks that impacted certain areas of the building.  

The increase of extreme weather events has led to more healthcare facilities being compromised. According to the Ways and Means Committee report, the cost of repairing damages from extreme weather events totaled millions of dollars, which many have yet to recoup. Only one-third of respondents have implemented a formal climate action or preparedness plans to limit potential risk in future weather events. However, respondents are aware of the importance of preparing for these types of events.  

The World Economic Report suggests the following actions healthcare systems can implement in order to reduce their carbon footprint: 

1.) Reduce health care’s climate footprint now 

  • Decarbonize health care facilities. 
  • Invest in and advocate for the decarbonization of local and national energy systems, and the implementation of clean renewable energy at the local, sub-national and national levels. 
  • Set criteria for low-carbon or zero emissions procurement within the supply chain 

2.) The health sector must support a societal transition to clean, renewable energy  

3.) Chart the course for zero emissions health care by 2050 

4.) Make development assistance for health climate-smart 

5.) Establish and implement government action plans for climate-smart health care 

6.) Deepen research on health care and climate change 


November 2, 2022

Topic Area: Sustainable Operations

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