The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report this week, which has highlighted the unavoidable conclusion that climate change is a global health issue with massive implications.
“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
1 in 8 deaths last year were due to air pollution. The recent smog in the UK put us all at risk, particularly asthma sufferers. 400,000 deaths last year were due to climate change. This isn’t something that will affect us in the distant future, its happening right now! In 2003 the heatwaves killed over 70,000 people across Europe. Summers like these will become more frequent and more severe. Recent UK flooding left some UK residents vulnerable and their homes destroyed. Current estimates are that by 2080 100 million people worldwide will be at risk of displacement due to sea level rises and increased floods. Elderly people and young children are the most vulnerable to these extremes of weather. As nurses we see the effects of these extremes of weather- hospitalisations and tragic deaths every year. As climate change affect us more and more each year these will become an ever increasing problem. The health of the children that we go to great lengths to protect every day will be at risk as they grow older in this environment.
This is not some regrettable but inevitable cost of economic and development progress; the truth is, we don’t need fossil fuels. As a recent report from Stanford University demonstrates, even the USA could achieve technologically and economically feasible 100% renewable energy generation by 2050 – saving the average American consumer £3,400 per year by 2050, relative to the current energy regime. As the researchers put it: “the greatest barriers to a conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political.”
The operations of the fossil fuel industry are incompatible with global health worldwide – but health organisations materially support the industry by investing in it. That’s why today we’re asking health and healthcare organisations – Colleges, professional bodies, funding Trusts – to break the carbon addiction, and divest from fossil fuels.
Please support Fossil Free Health, a Medact and Healthy Planet UK campaign. If you are a doctor, nurse, student, or other health professional your help could be invaluable. Check out the campaign website. It is so important that we act sooner rather than later.