2020 Press Releases

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Physician Protests Pipeline Project; Dr. Tim Takaro Takes a Stand 82 Feet Above the Ground

New York, NY – Aug. 12, 2020 – With summer at its zenith, climate change and its environmental impact is front of mind, sharing the news cycle with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, one public health physician and his supporters are protesting the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project (TMX) that – if completed – will enable expansion of the Alberta Oil Sands sending greenhouse gas emissions ever higher, threaten the metro-Vancouver area with fire and toxic spill risk and contaminate the food and drinking water sources of several indigenous communities in British Columbia.

For more than a week now, American Thoracic Society (ATS) member Tim Takaro, MSc, PhD, has occupied a tent in the trees 82 feet above ground hoping to halt construction of the planned TMX pipeline.

“I didn’t expect to find myself living in a tree at 63 years of age,” wrote Dr. Takaro in an OpEd. “I am a public health physician who has been studying and working on policy regarding the health impacts of climate change for nearly 30 years… In addition to the direct health risks of the project, I am considering the future of my children, their children and future generations around the world. No short-term economic benefit can out-weigh this risk. This is the right fight, in the right place, at the right time to firmly turn Canadian energy policy towards the planet’s sustainable future.”

The by products of emissions from projects like the TMX pipeline are dangerous to public health and contribute to climate change, which manifests in rising temperatures and more violent storms. An American Thoracic Society survey on climate change and health asked members about their experience treating patients with lung disease and their perceptions of climate change’s impact. Survey results showed that most members believed climate change had a direct impact on their patients’ health.

"Dr. Takaro is risking his own safety to protect the health of his patients and future generations,” said Mary Rice, MD, MPH, a member of the ATS, who studies environmental exposures such as air pollution on the health of children and adults. 

 “Climate change is a public health crisis that must be addressed urgently,” Dr. Rice continued.  “The Transmountain pipeline expands infrastructure in order to burn more fossil fuels, causing unhealthy air pollution and climate change.  As Dr. Takaro says, building this pipeline in 2020 'makes no sense.'  For the sake of lung health, we must transition to clean energy and stop burning dirty fossil fuels."