As a coalition of health professionals, we call for urgent action to prevent an increase in average global temperatures of more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, and mitigation and adaptation strategies that protect human and planetary health against the worst impacts of the climate and ecological crisis.

This call was outlined in an editorial  published simultaneously across more than 220 international journals that said:

Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades.”

Subsequently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned:

“Climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

We call for:

  • All countries to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 with countries with high emissions of carbon making much bigger cuts than those with low emissions

  • Countries with the greatest responsibility for carbon emissions (mostly high income countries) to transfer funds to countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, enabling them to adapt and prepare

  • An end to all subsidies, investments and new exploration for fossil fuels while ensuring a just transition to renewable energy

  • All fossil fuel companies to become net zero as soon as possible and before 2040

  • All health services to become net zero as soon as possible and before 2040

Climate change has already caused widespread adverse impacts and losses and damages to nature and people, some of which are irreversible. About 3.5 billion people are living in conditions highly vulnerable to climate change, and across sectors and regions, it is the most vulnerable people and systems that are most at risk. The disproportionate balance of risk on the most vulnerable is linked to socio-economic factors, inequity, marginalisation, colonialism and governance.

As the various impacts of climate change across different systems such as heat stress, water scarcity, flood risk and food insecurity increase, so too does the complexity of managing multiple climate hazards happening simultaneously, which could significantly impact on many aspects of health and wellbeing. Some of the overlapping challenges include increased exposure to heatwaves and heat-related mortality, increased risk of food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and increased mental health challenges, including anxiety and stress.

Adverse impacts and the related losses and damages increase with every increment of global warming. The scale of the challenge, both in terms of the magnitude and rate of change, is therefore strongly dependent on the mitigation and adaptation actions we take now and over the medium to longer term. This will require rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions combined with widespread adaptation action.

Effective mitigation and adaptation strategies have the potential to deliver multiple benefits including reducing poverty, improving health and wellbeing, reducing inequality, and protecting natural life.

Governments, civil society, and the private sector need to work together to make inclusive choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice that will:

  • Rapidly decarbonise the world economy
  • Support and protect vulnerable populations
  • Enhance biodiversity and regenerative agriculture
  • Help people, economies, and the environment adapt and prepare for the impacts of climate change

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