Climate change is the biggest threat to public health: world experts urge government action

4 April 2014

LONDON: International health experts, the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), has added its voice to the climate action movement, arguing that the health risks posed by a global temperature rise are too grave to ignore.

The health professionals are basing their argument on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report on climate change, which was released on Monday to intense global interest. 

The IPCC's ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’, affirms that humans are responsible for the earth’s warming which is having a devastating impact on communities globally. According to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) the period from 2001-2010 was found to be the hottest decade on record.

People in the developing world are disproportionately affected by this rise in world temperature, with lower crop yields resulting in rising levels of under nutrition. This climate induced problem stunts child growth and inhibits full development. Similarly, weather disasters such as last year’s Typhoon Haiyan have had a severe and resoundingly negative impact on local communities, with significant numbers of casualties left in their wake.

Drawing on the IPCC’s data the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) has developed a briefing report to highlight the precise health implications of climate change. Sue Atkinson, Co-Chair of the Climate and Health Council describes the rise in temperatures as the “biggest threat to public health” and notes that without “urgent action to curb emissions, both by individuals and organisations, the impact on the health of many will continue to increase”.

The GCHA believes the UNFCCC conference in Paris 2015 presents a key opportunity for tackling this alarming problem, and urges political leaders worldwide to commit to a binding and ambitious climate treaty.

However, the health coaliton also emphasize that small-scale actions such as increased use of bicycles can tackle greenhouse gas emissions effectively while also having a significant health benefit for individual cyclists.

Gary Cohen, President, Health Care Without Harm, has stressed that those in the medical profession must demonstrate climate leadership by “by anchoring the community response to extreme weather events, leading by examples in mitigating its own climate footprint and becoming powerful messengers for climate policies that will improve the health of our communities and the planet.”

Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, responded to the GCHA's report by drawing attention to the threat climate changes poses to international water security: "It is very encouraging to see such eminent international health experts lend their voices to the campaign for action on climate change. Climate scientists have predicted that the rise in global temperature will have a significant impact on drinking water both in terms of quantity and quality."

"The IPCC has noted that by 2050 the number of people affected by water shortages could rise to almost a billion. Adequate access to clean drinking water is paramount for human health. If we are serious about our future and the future of this planet we cannot afford to ignore the human health risk climate change presents," he added.

Related News: 

Leaders agree climate science ‘is beyond argument’

As climate scientists gather in Japan, UN reports 2013 was sixth warmest year on record

Damian Ryan: COP19 keeps us on track for a climate deal in Paris, if countries use 2014 wisely

Image by podoboq/Flickr

By Alana Ryan

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