Health journals unite on climate action

Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)


A joint editorial featuring in more than 200 health journals across the globe has called on world leaders to limit climate change and promote biodiversity and health.

The unprecedented editorial features in 233 medical journals including The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Medical Journal of Australia.

The editorial has been published ahead of the United Nations General Assembly next meeting in mid September.

It’s one of the last international meetings that takes place before the COP26 climate conference to be held in Scotland in November.

The editorial warns the greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure by world leaders to take adequate action to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature.

“In the past 20 years, heat related mortality among people aged over 65 has increased by more than 50 per cent,” the article says.

“Emissions reduction plans do not adequately incorporate health considerations.Concern is growing that temperature rises above 1.5C are beginning to be seen as inevitable.”

The editorial warns “this insufficient action means that temperature increases are likely to be well in excess of 2C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability.

“Crucially, the destruction of nature does not have parity of esteem with the climate element of the crisis, and every single global target to restore biodiversity loss by 2020 was missed. This is an overall environmental crisis.”

The editors of the health journals call on global leaders to take action, “the greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature”.

Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Nicholas J Talley, said health professionals have an important role to play in the global climate crisis.

“Leading by example, driving system change in health to dramatically reduce emissions and waste, advocating politically, and educating our patients and the public. Our children, and theirs, depend on us acting now, not tomorrow,” said Prof Talley.

The editorial calls on governments to do more, especially wealthier nations.

“Many governments met the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with unprecedented funding. The environmental crisis demands a similar emergency response,” it states.

“High income countries must meet and go beyond their outstanding commitment to provide $US100 billion a year,” it says.

One of the co-authors of the editorial Professor Lukoye Atwoli, Editor-in-Chief of the East Africa Medical Journal, also called for wealthier countries to increase their efforts.

“While low and middle income countries have historically contributed less to climate change, they bear an inordinate burden of the adverse effects, including on health,” said Professor Atwoli.

“We therefore call for equitable contributions whereby the world’s wealthier countries do more to offset the impact of their actions on the climate, beginning now, and continuing into the future.”


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