NewsSpecialist publishers publish an urgent climate appeal

Specialist publishers publish an urgent climate appeal

“There is no vaccine against the climate crisis,” it says in an unprecedented appeal from specialist journals. It calls on heads of state and government to take urgent action.

London – More than 220 specialist magazines on medicine and health call on world leaders in a joint editorial to take the climate emergency seriously and act accordingly.

Immediate action is needed to reshape society, limit climate change, restore biodiversity and protect public health. “We, the editors of health journals, urge governments and other leaders to act and mark 2021 as the year the world will finally change course,” the editorial reads.

Immediate action before COP26

The call appears in the run-up to the UN General Assembly, one of the last international meetings before the World Climate Conference (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow in November. “In the run-up to these crucial meetings, we – the editors of health magazines worldwide – call for immediate action to keep the rise in the global average temperature below 1.5 degrees, to stop the destruction of nature and to protect health,” it says Editorial.

The appeal is published in renowned journals such as “The Lancet”, “The British Medical Journal” and “The New England Journal of Medicine” as well as the “Chinese Science Bulletin” and “International Nursing Review”. Doctors and scientists have long been pointing out that environmental degradation and global temperature increases are taking a toll on health. According to a study, the results of which were published in “The Lancet” last year, there were around 20,200 deaths in over 65-year-olds in Germany alone in 2018 in connection with heat.

Health effects

“Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait until the pandemic is over in order to reduce emissions quickly,” emphasize the authors of the appeal. Heat-related mortality, the health consequences of destructive weather events and the ongoing destruction of ecosystems that are important for human health are just some of the effects that are increasingly observed due to the climate emergency.

They disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, ethnic minorities, poorer populations and people with previous health problems. In addition, the climate emergency is having an impact on harvests around the world and thus on food security. Just recently, the UN Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) warned that protecting biodiversity is crucial to fighting global hunger.

Unjust distribution

The joint appeal emphasizes that the consequences of the environmental crisis have been distributed unfairly. “While low- and middle-income countries have historically contributed less to climate change, they bear an excessive burden of negative effects, including health,” writes Lukoye Atwoli, editor of the East Africa Medical Journal. “We therefore call for fair contributions, in which the world’s wealthier countries do more to offset the impact of their actions on the climate, now and in the future.”

Specifically, industrialized nations would have to reduce their emissions more quickly “by 2030 beyond the currently proposed reductions and by 2050 to net zero emissions,” it says in the call. In addition, the wealthier countries should commit to increasing climate finance and meet their outstanding commitments.

Inadequate efforts

The efforts that are already being made to reduce greenhouse gases and increase the share of renewable energies are praiseworthy, but not enough. Above all, the health consequences of the climate emergency are not sufficiently taken into account. “The risks of climate change could eclipse those of any disease. The Covid-19 pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine against the climate crisis, “comments Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Specifically, the editorial calls on governments to reshape society and the economy, for example by helping reshape transport systems, cities, food production and distribution, financial investment markets, and health systems. “This will require enormous investments that go far beyond what is being considered or done anywhere in the world.”

Global Cost

Such investments have clearly positive effects on health and the economy. “These include high-quality jobs, less air pollution, more physical activity, as well as better living conditions and nutrition.” Accordingly, better air quality alone would bring health benefits that slightly outweigh the global costs of reducing emissions.

The leading article on behalf of the health professions was coordinated and co-authored by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and 17 editors-in-chief from the editorial offices involved. dpa

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