Professor stresses health benefits of tackling climate change in new briefing paper

Clare Saxon Ghauri
14 May 2015

LONDON: On the eve of the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva where climate is firmly on the agenda, The Climate Group has released a briefing paper highlighting the links between climate change and human health.

The briefing is based on an interview with climate and health expert, Professor Paolo Vineis, who is Chair of Environmental Epidemiology at the Imperial College London, Director of Unit of Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology at HuGeF Foundation in Torino, and Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.

As the medical community has become increasingly concerned and vocal about in recent years, climate change and its related pollutants is affecting public health by causing the loss of millions of lives and dollars. This briefing is aimed at international business leaders and policymakers to spur informed discussion and encourage urgent action on climate and low carbon growth to create a better, healthier, more prosperous future.

“The causes of many greenhouse gases emissions are closely linked to local pollution problems,” remarks Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group. “As we know smog in China, India, London and many other cities is caused by inefficient coal power stations in general, inefficient combustion plants, inefficient vehicles and poor quality filters: all of those contribute to local air pollution, which is costing lives and billions of dollars in lost activities and health costs each year.

“To many the solution to climate change is clean energy, a more efficient use of energy, conservation of forests and so on – and this will also have a notably beneficial impact on health.”


While the solutions are clear, for many years, the connection between climate change and health remained constrained to the boundary of academic discussions. But today, this link is finally making global headlines.

Last month, US President Barak Obama declared a National Public Health Week to make the public aware of this danger. And in China, the government is now implementing tough policies to ease the critical levels of air pollution in its cities.

Video: Professor Paolo Vineis briefly explains the links between climate change and human health

Mark Kenber further explains the links between health and climate: “One is the direct impact that climate change has on people. For example the average temperature increases, which in turn increases the spread of vector-borne diseases into areas that were previously colder. There is also the impact of heat strokes on people, also affected by the impact of extremes weather events – storms, floods and so on. Finally, there is the impact of rising sea levels on property and people’s homes.

“There is also a second level, perhaps more indirect, like the impact on food production. Given the rising population, we expect to eat more and better, but if agriculture is disrupted the ability to feed the world is at risk. There is a whole range of indirect impacts: on services, homes, salinization of agricultural land as result of sea-level rise, acidification of the oceans breaking down the food chain. All of those have an impact on health, particularly on nutrition.”

Our briefing paper highlights how these impacts put strains on public finances and health care standards that in turn affect individuals, communities and businesses.

Read it now

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