Quantcast
Climate

Health Professionals Worldwide Demand Urgent Climate Action Following IPCC Report

Health and medical organizations from around the world are calling on governments to respond to the major health risks described in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent Second Working Group reporting, ‘Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation,’ which was released on Monday.

Graphic courtesy of GCHA infographic

In a briefing document summarizing the IPCC report’s implications for health, now and in the future, the Global Climate & Health Alliance (GCHA) argues that there is still time to turn what has been called “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” into one of our biggest opportunities to improve health.

"We are already seeing serious threats to health from heatwaves and bushfires in Australia, which are increasing due to climate change; but we know the worst impacts on health are being borne by those in developing nations," said Dr. Liz Hanna, President of Climate and Health Alliance (Australia) "We can respond to this threat, and action now will prevent further harm. We call on our health and medical colleagues around the world to join us in demanding strong action to reduce emissions to limit these risks to health.”

GCHA’s briefing report is being launched today, together with a short film (below) and set of useful online resources. It summarizes the state of the science, using evidence synthesized in the IPCC report as its primary basis, and calls for urgent action to protect health from climate change and to promote health through low-carbon, sustainable development. 

Below are some examples of the ways in which climate change is projected to impact on human health:

  • In Australia, the number of “dangerously hot” days, when core body temperatures may increase by two degrees Celsius or more, threatening health, is projected to rise from the current four-six days per year, to as high as 33-45 days per year by 2070.
  • Climate change shows a strong association with the spread of many infectious diseases, including dengue fever, chikungunya and visceral leishmaniasis.
  • It is forecast to drive up food prices and to increase the number of undernourished children under five by 20-25 million globally, by 2050. This, in turn, is associated with a significant increase in stunting, anemia and child mortality.
  • Water-related diseases (eg. diarrhoea, cholera, schistosomiasis) will likely increase, due to flooding, increased run-off (reducing water quality) and water scarcity.
  • It is expected that climate change will act as a driver of migration and potentially also conflict, further increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and food insecurity.

"Climate change and health are inextricably linked," said Josko Mise, President of International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations “As future physicians, medical students have a moral responsibility to put patients’ health first. By taking action now we can improve the health of our communities, and prevent millions of needless deaths."

It is clear that human health is profoundly threatened by our failure to tackle climate change. A recent letter to the editor of the Times, from the UK’s most senior health professionals, stated:

Never before have we known so much and done so little. Failing to act decisively and quickly will inevitably cause great suffering and potentially catastrophic consequences.

Projected changes in flood frequency. Graphic courtesy of GCHA briefing report

These statements come shortly after the World Health Organization revised its estimate of air pollution’s health impact upwards, to 7 million premature deaths annually: one in every eight deaths globally. Much of this air pollution is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Physical inactivity—which correlates with car ownership—results in a further 3.2 million premature deaths each year. This means that policies to improve air quality and increase physical activity (for example, low-carbon energy and active travel policies) represent an unprecedented opportunity to improve global public health and tackle climate change simultaneously.

Many other such health "co-benefits" exist, such as preventing thousands of avoidable deaths through investment in home insulation, or major reductions in diseases like heart disease and stroke achievable by increasing active travel and reducing consumption of red and processed meat.

“Human health is incredibly fragile in light of the threat that climate change poses," said Julia Huscher of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). “Mitigation efforts can have large health benefits—reducing the burning of fossil fuels and moving to cleaner energy sources can bring down the rates of important chronic diseases, especially cardiopulmonary diseases and diabetes. For the EU as a whole, the anticipated benefits of an ambitious set of EU climate and energy targets could be as high as €34.5 billion (equivalent to 0.21% of EU GDP)’’ 

The GCHA calls on all governments to commit to a binding and ambitious treaty at the UN climate negotiations in Paris 2015, including specific provision for the effective protection of public health. There is an urgent need to ensure that climate policy is designed so as to maximize its accompanying health benefits, as well as to ensure that the world achieves the sustained and rapid emissions reductions needed to avert dangerous climate change.

“The health sector needs to play a central role in addressing climate change by anchoring the community response to extreme weather events, leading by examples in mitigating its own climate footprint and becoming powerful messengers for climate policies that will improve the health of our communities and the planet,” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

13 Useful Tips for Climate Action From the IPCC Report

Watch a Climate Denier Label IPCC Report as UN's 'Perverse Priorities' on Fox News

Hundreds of Students Participate in Walkout, Call for Gov. Patrick to Act on Climate Change 

--------

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!