Editors from 200 Health Journals Warn Climate Change Is Creating Global Health Crises

Increasing global temperatures are putting more people at risk from a multitude of maladies, ranging from tropical and zoonotic diseases to air pollution.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 15, 2021 09:31 UTC

Rising global tem­per­a­tures are already harm­ing human health, and a fur­ther increase of 1.5 ºC could result in cat­a­strophic harm to health that will be impos­si­ble to reverse,” the edi­tors of more than 200 health jour­nals have warned.

The edi­tors have come together to call on gov­ern­ments to act now to com­bat cli­mate change and reverse bio­di­ver­sity loss.

Never let any­one tell you that we can’t afford to phase out green­house gas emis­sions. We have every­thing to gain.- Laurie Laybourn-Langton, senior advi­sor, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change

This is an unprece­dented inter­ven­tion at an unprece­dented time,” Laurie Laybourn-Langton, a senior advi­sor at the United Kingdom Health Alliance on Climate Change and co-author of the appeal, told Olive Oil Times. Never before have so many jour­nals from so many dif­fer­ent coun­tries and health dis­ci­plines joined to make such a call.”

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The health cri­sis caused by the ris­ing world tem­per­a­tures could dwarf the dis­rup­tion brought by Covid-19″, he added.

The call for emer­gency action to limit global tem­per­a­ture increases, restore bio­di­ver­sity and pro­tect health” builds on decades of efforts by the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity to warn about what was hap­pen­ing to bio­di­ver­sity and health.

We need global will­ing­ness to sub­stan­tially change our economies so that plan­e­tary well­be­ing is val­ued as highly as, if not more than, eco­nomic growth,” Kirsten Patrick, interim edi­tor-in-chief at the Canadian Medical Association Journal and among the first to sign the appeal, told Olive Oil Times.

Countries need to pledge them­selves to tar­gets and plans that are sup­ported by leg­is­la­tion that leads to real con­se­quences for coun­tries that do not meet oblig­a­tions,” she added.

The call has been pub­lished ahead of the upcom­ing United Nations General Assembly and the sub­se­quent cli­mate meet­ings sched­uled in Glasgow, Scotland, and Kunming, China. While most coun­tries acknowl­edge the need for action, the largest emit­ters of green­house gases are often found on oppo­site sides of the debate.

Even China and the United States are begin­ning to expe­ri­ence the cat­a­strophic con­se­quences of cli­mate change, in extreme weather events such as flood­ing and fires,” Patrick said. Citizens should call on their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to take action to pro­tect them from worse future haz­ardous events, which will be cer­tain to occur if cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion is not made a pri­or­ity now.”

The call under­lined how some of the worst con­se­quences of cli­mate change are already hit­ting many coun­tries respon­si­ble for the small­est frac­tions of global emis­sions.

Yet no coun­try, no mat­ter how wealthy, can shield itself from these impacts,” the call reads. Allowing the con­se­quences to fall dis­pro­por­tion­ately on the most vul­ner­a­ble will breed more con­flict, food inse­cu­rity, forced dis­place­ment and zoonotic dis­ease – with severe impli­ca­tions for all coun­tries and com­mu­ni­ties.”

According to the sig­na­to­ries, equity must drive the global response to cli­mate change. They added that coun­tries should be account­able for their cumu­la­tive, his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tion” to emis­sions, cur­rent emis­sions and their abil­ity to respond to the cri­sis.

Appeals to wealthy nations to take respon­si­bil­ity for their his­tor­i­cal green­house gas emis­sions and sup­port poorer nations may not have been very suc­cess­ful to date – the idea of repa­ra­tion is never very polit­i­cally pop­u­lar – but per­haps wealthy nations can at least act for the sake of their own cit­i­zens,” Patrick said.

The mes­sage from the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity has often been left out of the polit­i­cal debate, added Laybourn-Langton.

For exam­ple, many or most coun­try plans for reduc­ing CO2 emis­sions do not ade­quately explore the health dimen­sion, the threats as well as the ben­e­fits to health of act­ing quickly,” he said.

See Also:Climate Coverage

According to the peti­tion­ers, the announced plans to cut emis­sions brought for­ward by many coun­tries are not enough.”

Concern is grow­ing that tem­per­a­ture rises above 1.5 ºC are begin­ning to be seen as inevitable, or even accept­able, to influ­en­tial mem­bers of the global com­mu­nity,” they wrote.


The call asks gov­ern­ments world­wide to make fun­da­men­tal changes to how our soci­eties and economies are orga­nized and how we live. The cur­rent strat­egy of encour­ag­ing mar­kets to swap dirty for cleaner tech­nolo­gies is not enough.”

The health edi­tors also ask insti­tu­tions to sup­port redesign­ing trans­port sys­tems, cities, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of food, mar­kets for finan­cial invest­ments and health sys­tems.

Global coor­di­na­tion is needed to ensure that the rush for cleaner tech­nolo­gies does not come at the cost of more envi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion and human exploita­tion,” the call reads.

The appeal lists some of the sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences of the loss of bio­di­ver­sity cou­pled to ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, such as grow­ing heat-related death among peo­ple over 65 years of age, der­ma­to­log­i­cal malig­nan­cies, trop­i­cal infec­tions, adverse men­tal health out­comes, preg­nancy com­pli­ca­tions, aller­gies and car­dio­vas­cu­lar and pul­monary mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity.

Laybourn-Langton, who helped coor­di­nate the simul­ta­ne­ous pub­lish­ing of the call, empha­sized how one in every five deaths world­wide is caused by air pol­lu­tion, mainly due to the burn­ing of fos­sil fuels. This fig­ure also rep­re­sents a sub­stan­tial eco­nomic cost for pro­duc­tive activ­i­ties.

When putting a dol­lar fig­ure on the ben­e­fits to soci­ety of this hap­pen­ing, it is esti­mated to be far greater than the cost of phas­ing out the fos­sil fuels, for instance rolling out clean cars, power plants and so on,” Laybourn-Langton said. So never let any­one tell you that we can’t afford to phase out green­house gas emis­sions. We have every­thing to gain.”

Should the fol­low­ing inter­na­tional meet­ings on cli­mate fail, Patrick warned they will open the doors to the worst con­se­quences of the cri­sis.

On the global scale, we will see mass migra­tion of peo­ple seek­ing to escape cli­mate change-related events, and all the myr­iad health harms that go with being a refugee, social deter­mi­nants that in turn impact health over the life course,” she said. We will see esca­lat­ing food inse­cu­rity, harms to women and chil­dren and more fre­quent novel infec­tious dis­ease like Covid-19.”

We, as edi­tors of health jour­nals, call for gov­ern­ments and other lead­ers to act, mark­ing 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course,” the call con­cludes.

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