The U.S. healthcare system contributes a quarter of global healthcare greenhouse gas emissions and is also a significant contributor to total domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (8.5%). The healthcare system must work aggressively to reduce its environmental impact.
Clinicians are integral to decision-making related to patient care, healthcare delivery, and biomedical research. Specifically, clinicians are care team leaders, drivers of procurement, decision-makers of resource utilization (e.g., tests, imaging, and other orders), prescribers, patient educators, mentors to trainees, and advocates. An awareness and understanding of the environmental impact of clinical care is foundational to transforming healthcare delivery and mitigating its carbon footprint, and ultimately ensuring the well-being of patients amid a climate crisis with grave health consequences.
In this Harvard Medical School Grand Rounds, we will discuss the U.S. healthcare’s contribution to climate change, including a brief review of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol which categorizes emissions into 3 Scopes. We will also discuss healthcare’s contributions to pollution, including data on morbidity and mortality attributable to healthcare pollution. We will provide GHG emission data specific to Boston academic medical centers, acquired in a first-ever Mass General Brigham comprehensive audit (April 2023). We will highlight physician-driven components in the delivery of care and identify opportunities for mitigation in light of the data.