Health professionals demand urgent climate action following IPCC report

Intro

In the wake of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, health and medical organisations around the world are calling for urgent action to mitigate the risks of global warming to human health. The IPCC science shows climate change is already having a significant impact on health as rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns increase heat-related illness, augment the spread of disease, reduce crop yields and access to clean water and result in forced migration, conflict and social disruption. But analysis released today by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), synthesising the IPCC’s research, shows there is still time to turn “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” into an opportunity to improve health. The GCHA is urging governments to commit to a binding and ambitious climate treaty in 2015, with specific health provisions, and the medical community to play a central role in mitigating the risks of climate change on global health. Today’s analysis follows a host of similar calls from health professionals. Editorials in the Lancet, the Times and the British Medical Journal have all highlighted the need for urgent climate action, warning “failing to act decisively and quickly will cause great suffering”. The BMJ has also called on hospitals, health societies and other medical institutions to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in renewables. This comes as the World Health Organisation warns that one in eight deaths globally are linked to air pollution, naming it “the world’s largest single environmental health risk”.

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MT @HealthandEnv Air pollution kills ~ 7mn ppl/yr. Tackling #climatechange can save lives http://bit.ly/1mCyVgi #climatehealth

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Key Quotes

  • “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. 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.” – Dr Liz Hanna, President, Climate and Health Alliance (Australia)
  • “This report really emphasises that climate change is the biggest threat to public health and that without urgent action to curb emissions, both by individuals and organisations, the impact on the health of many will continue to increase. The good thing is that there are co-benefits between action to reduce emissions and action to improve health – for example, walking and cycling instead of driving is both good for the planet and good for your health ” – Sue Atkinson, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Council
  • “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.” – Gary Cohen, President, Health Care Without Harm
  • “Human health is incredibly fragile in light of the threat that climate change poses. 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)’’ – Julia Huscher, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
  • ” Climate change and health are inextricably linked. 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.” – Josko Mise, President, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations 
  • “This is an emergency. Immediate and transformative action is needed at every level: individual, local, and national; personal, political, and financial. Countries must set aside differences and work together as a global community for the common good, and in a way that is equitable and sensitive to particular challenges of the poorest countries and most vulnerable communities. What we all do matters, not least in how it influences others. Those who profess to care for the health of people perhaps have the greatest responsibility to act.” – BMJ editorial by David McCoy, senior clinical lecturer, Hugh Montgomery, director, Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, president, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
  • “So what can health professionals do? Firstly, we should push our own organisations (universities, hospitals, primary care providers, medical societies, drug and device companies) to divest from fossil fuel industries completely and as quickly as possible, reinvest in renewable energy sources, and move to “renewable” energy suppliers. Secondly, we should each use whatever influence we have to change the minds and behaviour of others who are in positions of influence.” – BMJ editorial by David McCoy, senior clinical lecturer, Hugh Montgomery, director, Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, president, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
  • “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.” – Times Letter signed by 60 medical professionals

More Tweets

  • MT ‏@a_wardrope Climate change greatest health threat of 21C. Healthcare & fossil fuels don’t mix #climatehealth http://bit.ly/1kume5R
  • MT @GCHAlliance: We can turn #climatechange into our greatest health opportunity http://bit.ly/1ot97YG #climatehealth
  • MT ‏@eliavecellio Can we turn our biggest health threat into our biggest health opportunity? http://thndr.it/Oww5xW