More than 200 medical journals worldwide are calling on world leaders to take more and faster action against climate change. According to the signatories, climate change has serious public health implications.
The call will be placed in renowned magazines such as The BMJ and The Lancet, among others. The Dutch Journal of Medicine (NTvG) also participates. Editor-in-chief Marcel Olde Rikkert is one of the authors of the letter.
Climate change is the biggest public health hazard, the letter states. The world can therefore not wait for the end of the corona pandemic before addressing the health issues that global warming is causing.
Skin cancer and tropical infections
Over the last twenty years, heat mortality has risen by 50 percent among the over 65 s. Global warming also leads to more dehydration symptoms, kidney problems, skin cancer, tropical infections, allergies and a range of other conditions, the scientists write. Poor communities, ethnic minorities, the elderly and children are the worst hit.
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Although many countries have promised to reduce emissions, it is not enough, according to the authors: “Worrying is that some powerful members of the global community are beginning to see a rise in temperature of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius as inevitable and even acceptable. Current strategies to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050 also assume that we are developing great techniques to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”
That‘s why the authors think that the Earth is heading for at least 2 degrees of warming. “That is a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability.”
Governments have tackled the corona crisis with “unseen investments”. The authors think that the same approach is needed in the climate crisis. Wealthy countries in particular need to do more, by investing in the “redesign of transport systems, cities, food production and distribution, financial markets, healthcare and much more”.
The fact that the letter is now published has to do with some climate summits on the programme. The UN General Assembly will start at the end of September, a summit on biodiversity in China is scheduled in October, and a climate summit in Scotland is scheduled in November.
‘Much bigger than corona‘
“Climate change and the reduction of biodiversity are a much bigger problem than corona,” explains chief editor Olde Rikkert his participation in the CCeit Radio 1 Journal. “And where you have another vaccine for corona, you don’t have that for climate change and biodiversity.”
Vulnerable groups in particular are already at risk due to climate change, he says. “Small children, the elderly, psychiatric patients, people who don‘t have it too wide. They cannot arm themselves against climate change, against the heat, for example.” But in the end, everyone is going to suffer from climate change: “No one can arm themselves against hurricanes, or waterlogging from rain.”
The medical damage caused by climate change is already greater than many people think, says Olde Rikkert, also in the Netherlands. “A recent review article shows that heat has been demanding a lot of victims in the Netherlands in recent years. But there is also increasing pollen nuisance, especially in people with lung abnormalities. And air pollution is already demanding a lot of lives.”
In addition, according to the editor-in-chief, it is very likely that, as a result of warming, more infections are already occurring and also increasing skin defects, due to an increase in UV light. “In the Netherlands, we already have a lot of damage from climate change, and that doesn’t outweigh the small benefit of slightly warmer winters.”