Over 230 Medical Journals Urge Drastic Climate Action for Public Health
The editors of more than 230 medical journals said in a statement on Monday that human health is being harmed by climate change, and that the effects could become catastrophic if governments don't do more to address it. The unprecedented joint editorial cites climate change's proven links to "heat deaths, dehydration and kidney function loss, skin cancer, tropical infections, mental health issues, pregnancy complications, allergies, and heart and lung disease."
Why This Matters
- Wildfire smoke has been linked to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and more severe cases.
- Pollutants from oil refineries and chemical plants have been shown to cause respiratory, neurological, and cardiac problems.
- The 2021 Pacific Northwest heat dome led to over 500 heat-related deaths in just one week.
Additionally, as humans collide with wildlife over habitat destruction and deforestation, zoonotic diseases will only increase. As global temperatures rise, health threats will become more common and more widespread, and the world is running out of time to save lives.
WHO: How air pollution impacts your body, March 13, 2018.
American Lung Association: Climate and Your Health, April 5, 2021.
Health and Human Impact
"Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades," reads the editorial. It also states that if global average temperature rise reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius, "catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse." The editors expressed that the methods currently used by governments around the globe aren't enough to reach net-zero by 2050, and in some cases, aren't proven to reduce emissions.
The editorial comes as the COP26 conference in Glasgow quickly approaches, where delegates from more than 200 countries will gather for climate talks. Though many environmental activists recently called for the conference to be postponed, citing threats to both health and equity -- this coalition of medical experts is urging world leaders to make commitments and take even more significant action before the year is up, "We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course."
The United States recently announced the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity within the Department of Health and Human services. The department aims to treat climate change as a public health issue and build climate resiliency and equity into hospitals and healthcare. The office hopes to address climate-related health issues facing the most impacted communities.
Climate Reality: Climate Health Connection Environmental Pollution, May 30, 2019.
World War Zero: A Conversation on Health and Climate, August 6, 2020.