Climate crisis poses global health risk, warn more than 200 journals

6 Sep 2021

Wildfires in Florida, US. Image: © ondrejprosicky/Stock.adobe.com

Health journals around the world are publishing an editorial about the severity of the climate crisis, saying ‘no temperature rise is safe’.

More than 200 health journals have banded together in an editorial urging countries worldwide to tackle the global environmental crisis. The publication is intended to highlight the severe health consequences of global heating ahead of the United Nation’s COP26 climate conference being held in Glasgow in November of this year.

“Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades,”  wrote the group.

“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.

“Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

The group said that in order to reflect the global severity of the situation, the editorial would appear in health journals around the world. It added that the group is united in recognising that “fundamental and equitable changes to societies” are needed to stop humanity’s current trajectory.

Journals involved include The British Medical Journal, The Lancet, PLOS Medicine, the Indian Journal of Medical Research, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

“The risks to health of increases above 1.5 degrees Celsius are now well established,” the editorial continued. “Indeed, no temperature rise is ‘safe’.

“In the past 20 years, heat-related mortality among people aged over 65 has increased by more than 50pc. Higher temperatures have brought increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality.

“Harms disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children, older populations, ethnic minorities, poorer communities, and those with underlying health problems.”

The editorial hammered home the urgent reality of the climate emergency following the IPCC climate report in August of this year. That report emphasised that “the power is in our hands” to make necessary changes, but that action must be taken immediately.

The health journals warned that “targets are easy to set and hard to achieve”, however, and that they are yet to be matched with realistic short- and long-term plans.

The group concluded that “the greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to restore nature”.

“Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world. 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.”

A full list of the supporting and publishing journals can be found here.

Sam Cox is a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news

editorial@siliconrepublic.com