By: Frances Lamberts
Not unlike most of the then Nobel recipients’ and some 1,500 other scientists’ “Warning to Humanity” at the beginning of this century, the editors of the world’s health journals, in September, issued a call for urgent political action on the climate.
The need for it is now so great, the medial professionals stated, that “we cannot wait [even] for
the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”
Global temperature increases have caused health-related mortality among people older than 65
years to increase more than 50% in the past 20 years.
With the higher temperatures have come more heart, lung and kidney function loss, allergies and dermatological malignancies and other harms to health. Though these consequences fall disproportionately on countries with low resources, even the most wealthy countries cannot avoid the dangerous health and social impacts.
“The greatest threat to global public health,” the authors conclude, “is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5ºC.”
Though many governments and businesses have set targets to go carbon free, the practical emissions reduction plans fail to adequately incorporate public-health considerations and do not speed the transition to clean energy fast enough.
There is growing concern, as well, that greater temperature rises, above the 1.5ºC limit “are beginning to be seen as inevitable or even acceptable.”
The assumption, along with this, that great technological capability will later allow the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere lacks plausibility, they state. Insufficient immediate action on climate is likely to lead to much higher temperature increases, with a catastrophic outcome for human health and the natural world.
Stretching over a 10- year budget window, the Administration’s budget-reconciliation proposal contains many policy provisions the authors deem essential, at this juncture, to solve the climate crisis. Though the needed investments are large, they will “produce huge positive health and economic outcomes,” the health benefits from better air quality alone, they state, easily offsetting the costs of emissions reductions.
Two decades ago, the world scientists considered invaluable time to be squandered through leaders’ lack of action on the climate. The medical-science authors now call for “governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course.”
For the health of their people, especially the young and generations to come, the U.S. Congress should follow the Administration’s lead and governments globally, as they head for the upcoming COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, and should heed the medical scientists call.