The effects of climate change are being felt on Wednesday, and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health, warns a new study published in The Lancet.
“The implications of climate change for a global population of nine billion people threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health,” says the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change in its report.
The report shows that the direct health impact of climate change come from the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, especially heat waves, floods, droughts and storms.
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“Indirect impacts come from changes in infectious disease patterns, air pollution, food insecurity and malnutrition, involuntary migration, displacement and conflicts,” it says.
However, the report provides comprehensive new evidence showing that because responses to mitigate and adapt to climate change have direct and indirect health benefits – from reducing air pollution to improving diet – concerted global efforts to tackle climate change actually represent one of the greatest opportunities to improve global health this century.
It says there are numerous ways in which action on climate change brings immediate health gains – “burning fewer fossil fuels reduces respiratory diseases, and active transport (walking and cycling) cut pollution and road traffic accidents, and reduces rates of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke.”
The study speaks about health benefits from changes to diet which might arise from a concerted effort to tackle climate change, such as eating less red meat.
“..In affluent populations, improved diets with reduced consumption of red and processed meat, together with increased consumption of plant-based foods, especially fruit and vegetables, can improve health, lessen demand for land, and reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs),” it says.
The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change has been formed to map out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide.
This Commission is multidisciplinary and international in nature, with strong collaboration between academic centres in Europe and China.