A health approach to climate change

Changing Environment

(European Institute for Gender Equality, 2017)

The world has more than 1.9 million medical students from over 190 countries. If all us health professionals and future health professionals team up to battle climate change, it would bring about not only a great change in the policies of the world but also the cultural and social norms of communities.

We need to acknowledge climate change as the largest threat and opportunity to global health in the 21st century, and call for human health to be placed at the centre of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) international negotiations where it will stand as an effective framework from which to implement a fair and ambitious plan of action following the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

In this, we seek to preserve a society which promotes equity, avoids future conflicts and paves the road towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs). There exists universal political, scientific and public health consensus that climate change is both men-made and occurring at unprecedented rates, posing a very significant threat to the health of global populations.

Disturbances in climate stability will severely harm the health of humans, animals and the environment through an increase in extreme weather events, natural disasters, floods and resulting diarrheal disease, degradation of arable land, nutritional impacts, mass migration, and violent conflict. Climate change will also play a greater role in the spread of infectious diseases by widening the areas of spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever by creating more favorable conditions for climate sensitive disease vectors.

Changes to the climate resulting in water scarcity and decreased sanitation alone will have devastating effects on public health systems in affected areas. Furthermore, extreme drought linked to climate change is creating conditions that contributed to civil instability. Therefore, climate change mitigation and adaptation represent a non-regret necessity that takes the form of basic public requirements and efforts towards the SDGs: promotion of healthy lifestyles; use of sustainable clean energy sources; guarantee of food security, water and sanitation; clean air; early warning systems; vector control and disaster risk reduction.

As health professionals and Future health professionals, our duty of care will include not only future patients, but communities and public health at local, national and global levels. The impact of climate change on health is a threat that we will see in our future scope of practice if the right measurements of prevention are not taken. As a people, we need to acknowledge the significant co-benefits of health mitigation strategies such as: developments in areas of transport, agriculture, electricity generation and household energy use.

What is required is Immediate and sustainable mitigation and adaptation action be taken on a local, national and global level to safeguard global public health and preserve our accomplishments over infectious diseases and towards health care access.The future costs associated with climate change must be shared fairly between nations, taking into account equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR), in the light of different national circumstances. Health must be placed at the centre of any international negotiations on climate change for a global deal. The international health community must actively engage in the debate and negotiation progress taking place under the UNFCCC.

Health professionals as individuals and their representative organizations must take an external advocacy role in encouraging their local governments, health and other relevant ministers to act in a way that reduces national emissions adopting the health in all policies approach and prepare for the future consequences of climate change on health.

All governments and nations need to realize that there is a great need to invest time, effort and finances into mechanisms to achieve measurable carbon reduction, create jobs and contribute to a more sustainable world.

We must meet an emissions trajectory consistent with a 1.5 degree long term goal and create a society wide transition to a carbon free economy, through the divestment of fossil fuels and the immediate withdrawal of fossil subsidies, in order to accelerate the transition to sustainable societies that are beneficial to human health, through country-specific emissions reduction targets, which make steady steps for the agreed global objective to be reached and adapted according to each nation’s capacity.

The IFMSA, World Health Organization, medical students, medical practitioners, healthcare providers and organizations representing the interests of current and future health professionals to need to take the lead in educating the public on the likely effects of climate change on health, as well as directly lobbying key stakeholders including governments, to take action on the issue. There is a great need to integrate climate change and its threat to health within the curricula of medical schools worldwide and into capacity building programs targeting health professionals from a multidisciplinary approach and further continue the initiative of the WHO Country profiles on climate and health, in collaboration between NMOs, governments and WHO.

In conclusion, science and justice demands of the global community a reduction of carbon emissions to levels which ensure the survival of our planet’s ecosystem and the protection of human health. We as an individual and as a people need to fulfil that demand to keep ourselves, our family and friends, and our planet, healthy and happy.

About the author

Sheharyar Zameer is a second year medical student at Army Medical College in Pakistan and the National Public Health Officer at the International Federation of Medical Students Association, Pakistan. He is a co-ordinator at Together We Can Foundation and a member of the International Organization for Progressive Global Collaborations. He is also a member of the college research society AURF and dramatics society AEDS. His special interests include Public Health, Trauma Medicine and Surgery.

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Comments

  1. Виктор Родин says:

    “Mankind has three years left …” The shocking statement of the scientist about the end of the world leads to hysteria. Reto Knutti – Famous Swiss climatologist and professor of physics of Earth’s climate at the Institute of Atmospheric and Climatic Science, Zurich.
    Yes, indeed: “Mankind has three years left …” But no hysterics from this fact should be done.
    Warming is eliminated in 10 years by natural technologies, which it has already done at least twice:
    After the dinosaurs, who ate all the vegetation that they could get, polluted the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane, and raised the temperature.
    The same after mammoths.
    The cost of restoring the planet’s climate is one trillion dollars.
    The yield from the elimination of warming is 2.4 -2.7 trillion dollars.
    In 2018, the cost of recovery will be two trillion dollars.
    In 2019, the situation on elimination of warming will change to 50-on-50.
    In 2020, we can only take advantage of the advice of the scientist – to prepare for the end of the world.
    Sincerely, creator of environmental programs, environmental engineer, Victor Rodin.
    — — —
    «Человечеству осталось три года…» Шокирующее заявление ученого о конце света доводит до истерики. Рето Кнутти (Reto Knutti) — Известный Швейцарский климатолог и профессор физики климата Земли в Институте атмосферной и климатической науки, Цюрих.
    Да, действительно: «Человечеству осталось три года…» Но никаких истерик из этого факта делать не следует.
    Потепление устраняется за 10 лет природными технологиями, которые это делали уже как минимум дважды:
    После динозавров, которые съели всю растительность, которую могли достать, загрязнили атмосферу углекислым газом и метаном, и подняли температуру.
    То же после мамонтов.
    Стоимость восстановления климата планеты – один триллион долларов.
    Доходность от устранения потепления – 2,4 -2,7 триллиона долларов.
    В 2018 году стоимость восстановления будет два триллиона долларов.
    В 2019 ситуация по устранению потепления перейдёт в режим 50-на-50.
    В 2020 мы можем только воспользоваться советом учёного – подготовиться к концу света.

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