During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There’s something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity,” according to the medical journal The Lancet.
The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, by 150 experts from 27 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, is blunt: “A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease, and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air.”
The report examines the association between health and climate change, including resilience and adaptation, financial and economic implications, the health and economic benefits of addressing the crisis, and the need for political and societal engagement, with a greater role for health professionals.
Sadly, the researchers conclude that a lack of concerted effort from governments is compromising human health and health infrastructure and services. They note some progress has been made, including a global decline in coal use, rapid growth in renewable energy installation and increasing fossil fuel divestment.
But it’s far short of what’s needed to keep global average temperature from rising more than 2 C, let alone the more ambitious target of 1.5 C.
People in more than 90 percent of cities breathe air that is toxic to cardiovascular and respiratory health, and it appears to be getting worse, “particularly in low-income and middle-income countries.” Pollutants from burning coal and other fossil fuels are causing millions of premature deaths every year.
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