Climate Action

New Study Says Action Needed On Climate Change To Prevent Health Crisis

The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, a group of interdisciplinary European and Chinese scientists and experts, recently published a study proving climate change to be a significant threat to personal health worldwide. The study, published in British medical journal The Lancet, claims that the effects of climate change could “undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.” But the authors see the challenge of curbing climate change as an opportunity to promote global health in years to come. Climate change will affect health in a myriad of ways. Some are direct, such as injuries from heatwaves and extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and fires. Other effects will come indirectly in response to climate change-induced weather events. For example, these events will impact agricultural productivity, leading to undernutrition. Ocean acidification, another result of greenhouse gas emissions, will impact fishing, also leading to undernutrition. The study lists more cause-and-effect scenarios regarding human health. A loss of biodiversity due to climate change will lead to increased vector-borne disease, while particulate pollution and ozone increase will lead to cardiovascular and respiratory disease. All of these factors will also affect physical work capacity, threatening economic productivity and mental health. These threats to basic human health qualify as a medical emergency in the eyes of the Lancet Commission, enough to challenge the past 50 years of medical advancement. But the study wasn’t all doom and gloom—the authors of the study also addressed the future by analyzing political solutions to climate change and its effects on health. They call for international agreements, technological innovation and investment, phasing out coal, removing fossil fuel subsidies, poverty reduction, city planning and developing climate resilient health systems, among other options. By framing the issue of climate change around global health, the Commission makes climate change personal. It’s an issue that affects human beings, not just an intangible entity. This isn’t about saving the environment or the atmosphere, but about saving people. Indeed, studies have shown that the public health frame is effective in garnering support regarding climate change reduction efforts, so this study should make waves and inspire a sense of urgency. Sofia Crutchfield, Intern