Our New Report With The Climate Coalition

The health of more than 12 million people in the UK – equivalent to the populations of Greater London and Greater Manchester combined – are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – through heatwaves and major flood events. 

Our latest report, in collaboration with the Climate Coalition and the Priestley International Centre for Climate, shows that approximately 1.8 million people in the UK are living in areas at significant risk of flooding – a number which could increase to 2.6 million in as little as 17 years. Just under 12 million people in the UK are also dangerously vulnerable to future summer heatwaves, particularly the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

While the health risks from climate change will grow if unabated, many impacts are being felt in the UK now as last year was once again the hottest year on record. As this burden of ill health increases, so too will the health services own vulnerability to the effects of climate change. NHS facilities are not immune to flooding.

If decision-makers commit to take urgent, decisive action, we will live healthier lives with cleaner air and more green spaces. It is only through action to reduce emissions at every level  – global, national, organisational and personal – that we will stop climate change. The health sector, which currently accounts for 5.4% of the UK’s emissions, is no exception to this.

You can read the introduction to our report, from Dr Fiona Godlee, below. Download the pdf to read more.

Introduction

During the past year the international community has been grappling with a terrible health crisis on a scale not seen for generations. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating. Lives have been lost, social and economic systems have been upended, and inequalities brought glaringly to the fore.

But there is another crisis unfolding, far more devastating in its impacts on human health and survival: the climate crisis. Its impacts in global heating and extreme weather events are already being felt around the world and are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable. We must act urgently and equitably.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is seen worldwide as a beacon of equitable access to healthcare. The NHS in England is now taking a lead on tackling the climate emergency, by committing to eliminate the majority of its carbon emissions by 2032, and to reach net-zero by 2040 at the latest. This requires the active engagement of healthcare providers and professionals, to see tackling climate change as a priority, bringing fundamental change to what we do and how we do it. Clinical pathways must be carefully redesigned, travel to and from hospitals and clinics reduced, and the focus shifted from managing illness to investing in prevention and population health. We hope that other countries’ health systems will follow.

Dr Fiona Godlee
Editor-in-Chief of The BMJ

Health professionals can and must be part of a wider change, advocating for action across sectors, including energy, housing, transport and agriculture, and calling for visionary leadership from governments to transform the world’s economies. The things we do to tackle the climate emergency will have vital benefits for our health and well being: from removing polluting vehicles from our roads and increasing the amount of active travel on foot or bicycle, to making our homes and buildings safer and more efficient, and eating a healthier, more plant-based diet. This is our opportunity to create a healthier and more equal society.

“We must seize this moment to tackle climate change and avert this century’s greatest public health crisis.”

Read And Download The Full Report Here