Health and climate change

We are entering a period of unprecedented environmental breakdown. Human activity is changing the planet’s biosphere, bringing disruption to planetary health through climate change, air pollution, ocean acidification, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity.

Climate change undermines the foundations of health in the UK and worldwide – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. ​Increasing number and intensity of extreme weather events, like floods and storms, damage health facilities and infrastructure putting health systems under intense pressure.

We are already experiencing its negative consequences and these are set to reach catastrophic levels if we continue as we are. The World Health Organisation has described climate change as “the defining health challenge of our time”.

As health professionals we have a duty to protect and promote public health in the face of these threats, and a unique and vital role to play. Our expertise, diverse roles and the trust invested in us mean we are, and should be, leaders in protecting the public from the health consequences of climate change.

Health benefits of climate action​

We know that actions that protect our planet, and mitigate climate change, are also good for our health.

Phasing out polluting vehicles reduces air pollution while enabling us to rethink our cities – adapting them to cope with extreme weather events, and to support increases in walking and cycling. Adopting more sustainable diets could reduce the carbon footprint of the food system and protects biodiversity, while improving our health and reducing the impact of diet-related illness.

Transformation will take time – we are late to start, and need to catch up fast.

‘It is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global’.
Sir Bob Watson – Ex Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Health and climate change infographic