A collection of leading health and medical journals this week called for swift action to fight climate change, calling on governments to work together and invest in the environmental crisis with the level of funding and urgency they used to tackle the global pandemic. cope with coronavirus.
In an editorial published in more than 200 medical and health journals around the world, the authors declared a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature as the “greatest threat to global public health.” The world is on track to become about 3 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels by 2100, based on current policies.
“The science is unequivocal; a global rise of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and the ongoing loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic damage to health that cannot be reversed,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, no temperature rise is ‘safe’.”
Although medical journals have published feature articles in the past, this was the first time that publication on this scale has been coordinated. In total, more than 200 journals from all continents and a wide range of medical and health disciplines, from ophthalmology to veterinary medicine, published the statement. The authors are editors of leading journals, including The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the editorial, they expressed concerns not only about the direct health effects of rising temperatures, including heat-related death, pregnancy complications and cardiovascular disease, but also about the indirect costs, including the effects that soil depletion could have on malnutrition and the possibility that widespread habitat destruction could increase the likelihood of future pandemics.
The editorial urged rich countries to go beyond their targets and commit to emission reductions commensurate with their cumulative, historical emissions. It also called on them to go beyond their set goals of $100 billion for climate resilience plans in developing countries, including funding to improve health systems.
“While low- and middle-income countries have contributed less to climate change in the past, they carry an excessive burden of adverse effects, including on health,” said Dr. Lukoye Atwoli, editor-in-chief of the East African Medical Journal and one of its co-authors, said in a statement. “We therefore call for equitable contributions with the richer countries of the world doing more to offset the impact of their actions on the climate.”
Sue Turale, the editor-in-chief of the International Nursing Review and co-author of the editorial, said in a statement: “As our planet faces disasters from climate change and rising global temperatures, health professionals everywhere have a moral responsibility to act to avoid this.”
The publication comes in the run-up to a busy few months of climate and environmental conferences. The UN General Assembly is scheduled for this month in New York City, the UN Summit on Biodiversity is set to meet in Kunming, China, in October, and the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP, in Glasgow in November.
A growing body of research has shown that extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, contribute to a wide variety of adverse health effects. Earlier this year, a study found that about a third of heat-related deaths worldwide can be attributed to the additional warming associated with climate change. And this summer, hundreds of Americans have died in extreme weather events, including more than 600 during the record-breaking week-long heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, which climate scientists say would have been “virtually impossible without climate change.”