The climate crisis is also a healthcare crisis


The warning could not be a star car. “Science is clear,” wrote in a simultaneous publication by the editors of more than 200 international health journals. Calling an action last month. “A global rise 1.5 ° C above the pre-industrial average and continued loss of biodiversity poses a catastrophic risk to health and is irreversible. ”

Preventing such disasters is a challenge as well as the upcoming politicians in Glasgow for the United Nations. COP26 Not only for climate change conferences, but also for healthcare providers around the world. It is they who already have to deal with the direct impact of climate change on the human body and mind. But they too must be aware that they are also contributing to the problem — because healthcare systems are an important source of carbon emissions.

Climate change threatens health in many ways. Heat is the most obvious danger: a Recent research It is estimated that more than one-third of heat-related deaths between 1991 and 2018 are due to climate change.By the second half of this century, one billion people Manual labor is dangerous, Even in the shade. Wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity in some areas, exposing large numbers of people to wildfires. Toxic smoke..

Other risks are less direct. Yield It has averaged more than 10% reduction since the 2050s and can threaten food security, but higher carbon dioxide levels can reduce the micronutrient content of crops. On the other hand, higher temperatures and higher flood rates promote the spread of food and water-borne infections and mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and West Nile virus.

Toxic Atmosphere: This fiery wildfire in Morocco is becoming more frequent and has disastrous consequences for air quality © Fadel Senna / AFP via Getty Images

The World Bank will say in the absence of effective climate change measures Over 100 million people It could be forced back into poverty by 2030. Hunger can spur migration and conflict. And the fees aren’t just physical. According to a survey released last year General mental illness It can last for a long time after a drought, flood or wildfire.

There are several hopes for adaptive strategies. NS Thermal alarm system In the Caribbean, some countries have adopted to save lives based on climate information. Epidemic prediction We promise to protect people from dengue fever.

However, health policy makers need to be aware of unintended consequences. For example, increased use of air conditioning can overload the power grid, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution.

Above all, greater effort is needed to achieve Paris’ climate change goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 2 ° C, preferably below 1.5 ° C, below pre-industrial levels. Current progress is seriously inadequate, but the value of health benefits alone can significantly offset the cost of mitigation. For example, fossil fuels can be replaced with clean renewable energy more quickly. Prevent premature death of 3.6m Every year, it is caused by outdoor air pollution.

Light of Hope: More use of solar energy from such facilities in China could significantly reduce deaths from air pollution
Light of Hope: More use of solar energy from such facilities in China could significantly reduce air pollution mortality © Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Or consider the food system, which currently accounts for about 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The health and climate benefits of reducing lean meat production and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are clear.

NS EAT-Lancet CommitteeA group of scientists, whose report on sustainable diets was published in 2019, said that by the middle of the century, 10-11 million premature deaths per year, primarily by switching to a plant-based “planetary health” diet. Suggested that it can be prevented.

Remodeling homes with better insulation, windbreaks, and improved ventilation as needed to reduce the accumulation of air pollutants in the home can also reduce emissions and improve health.

Promoting public transport, walking and cycling can generate significant benefits through increased physical activity. Providing more green space to the city helps with physical and mental health.

Medical professionals are already lobbying for progress in these areas.Last year, more than 350 medical institutions around the world Wrote a letter to the G20 leader Countries urge them to put the environment at the center of their efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

But they also need to prepare their homes. research Announced by pressure group Health Care Without Harm in 2019, this sector accounts for approximately 4.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is the fifth largest emitter in the world if it is a country. Healthcare also causes other types of environmental damage, such as plastic pollution. Worse due to pandemic..

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NHS England Net zero direct carbon emissions By 2040 — through means such as electrifying vehicle fleets — and by 2045 for indirect emissions. We are already working with our suppliers to encourage decarbonization of our products.

All kinds of interventions can make a difference. Doctors can prescribe powdered inhalers for asthma that do not contain climatic activity promoters and avoid anesthetics with a large climatic footprint such as desflurane.Aga Khan Development Network is built Energy efficient medical facility In low and middle income countries. Studies have shown that telemedicine can reduce carbon emissions from patient transport, even before the Covid blockade requires consultation by Zoom.

It may be easy to overlook the increasing sacrifice of climate change to human well-being in the horse trade over emission reduction targets and financial obligations at COP26. The fact is that the health of the planet and its population is inextricably intertwined. Healthcare workers are at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

Andy Haines is a professor of environmental change and public health at the London School of Economics and Tropical Medicine.He co-chairs Academy of Medicine on Health and Decarbonization / Royal Society Working Group, The report will be published on October 14th

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