Climate change threatens 50 years of progress in global health, study says – ‘Climate change is a medical emergency’Posted by Jim at Thursday, June 25, 2015
By Damian Carrington and Sarah Boseley
22 June 2015
But the analysis also concludes that the benefits to health resulting from slashing fossil fuel use are so large that tackling global warming also presents the greatest global opportunity to improve people’s health in the 21st century.
The report was produced by the Lancet/UCL commission on health and climate change, a collaboration of dozens of experts from around the world, and is backed by Margaret Chan, head of the UN World Health Organisation.
“We see climate change as a major health issue and that it is often neglected in the policy debates,” said Professor Anthony Costello, director of the UCL Institute of Global Health and co-chair of the commission.
“On our current trajectory, going to 4C [of warming] is somewhere we don’t want to go and that has very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival and could undermine all of the last half-century’s gains. We see that as a medical emergency because the action we ned to do to stop that in its tracks and get us back onto a 2C trajectory or less requires action now – and action in the next ten years – otherwise the game could be over.”
The comprehensive analysis sets out the direct risks to health, including heatwaves, floods, and droughts, and indirect – but no less deadly – risks, including air pollution, spreading diseases, famines, and mental ill-health. A rapid phase-out of coal from the global energy mix is among the commission’s top recommendations, given the millions of premature deaths from air pollution this would prevent.
The report states that political will is now the major barrier to delivering a low-carbon economy and the associated improvements to health and poverty, not finance or technology. [more]
23 June 2015 (UCL) – The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, written by experts from around the world, today reports three key findings:
The effects of Climate Change are being felt today, pose a potentially catastrophic risk to human health, and have been underestimated.
The technologies and finance required to address the problem can be made available, but the political will to connect them is lacking, whilst
Such action on Climate Change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st Century: actions to reduce climate change are also good for health here and now.
Members of the UCL Energy Institute (UCL-Energy) UCL-Energy Director Bob Lowe, Professor Tadj Oreszczyn, Ian Hamilton and Steve Pye, along with of Lu Liang and Jun Yang of Tsinghua University, focussed on transition to a low-carbon economy as part of Working Group Three.
Professor Bob Lowe said:
"Climate Change has been acknowledged as one of the world's most serious problems, with the long term potential to undo many of the gains in public health of the last 50 years. Actions to deal with it need to begin immediately, but effective global agreement has so far proven impossible to reach.
The Lancet Commission Report highlights the connections between climate change and health, which range from long term and global to the short term, local and regional. Such connections have the potential to turn risk into opportunity. In particular, addressing local and regional pollution problems provides governments with the economic and political arguments to reduce CO2 emissions even in the absence of global agreements. Such reasoning may be a partial explanation for the recent downturn in coal consumption in China, one of the more optimistic developments of the last year."
Quotable Statements from the Commission Co-chairs:
Professor Anthony Costello says, “It’s clear that by tackling climate change, we can also benefit health. Climate change is in fact our greatest opportunity to benefit human health for generations to come.”
Professor Hugh Montgomery says, ”Climate Change is a medical emergency. It thus demands an emergency response, using the technologies available right now. Under such circumstances, no doctor would consider a series of annual case discussions and aspirations adequate.”
China’s Professor Peng Gong, from Tsinghua University, Beijing and Commission Co-Chair, says that adapting to climate change will have an enormous positive effect on health. “The health community has responded to many grave threats to health in the past. It took on entrenched interests such as the tobacco industry, and led the fight against HIV/AIDS. It’s time for us to lead the way in responding to the biggest threat to public health of our generation.”
Background to the Commission
The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change was formed to map out a comprehensive response to climate change - a ‘prescription’ to protect human health and survival worldwide. It represents a strong international, multidisciplinary collaboration between academic centres in Europe and China, including University College London (UCL), Tsinghua University in Beijing, Stockholm Resilience Centre, the UK Meteorological Office and the University of Exeter.
Full report is available on the website climatehealthcommission.org
Read on The Lancet
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