The Climate Crisis Is Also a Global Health Crisis

The Climate Crisis Is Also a Global Health Crisis
A delegate wears a face mask at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

Climate change is bad for your health. That is the unequivocal finding of The Lancet’s annual “Countdown” report, which was published last week by a team of nearly 100 scientists from 43 institutions around the world. Global warming, the authors write, is not just an environmental disaster, but is also exposing humans to searing heat and extreme weather events; increasing the transmission of infectious diseases; exacerbating food, water and financial insecurity; endangering sustainable development; and worsening global inequality. And, they conclude, the data in this year’s report should represent a “code red for a healthy future.”

For the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has naturally been the overwhelming focus of global public health discussions, having infected nearly 250 million people, while killing almost 5 million and upending the world economy. The health effects of climate change have been more subtle, yet relentless. The pandemic will pass, sooner or later, but the health challenges created by global warming will last decades, even centuries. 

So far, world leaders have largely failed to address the health challenges brought on by climate change. In fact, in a joint statement released in September, more than 200 medical journals identified this political negligence as the “greatest threat to global public health.” To arrest and ultimately reverse these trends, world leaders should take advantage of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which kicked off on Sunday, by agreeing to accelerate the decarbonization of the global economy and provide more funds to low-income countries for adaptations to global warming’s public health impacts. 

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