Climate Change

‘Climate change already costing lives’

Climate change

A piece published in the journal BMJ warns that climate change is contributing to antimicrobial resistance, vector-borne infectious diseases, and global climate migration, all of which strain healthcare services

The impact of climate change is not a distant threat but a crisis that is already costing lives, says  an opinion piece published in the journal BMJ. 

The piece written by Ramesh Arasaradnam, an academic vice president and consultant gastroenterologist, issues a stark warning about the immediate danger that climate change poses to public health. 

Climate change is a public health emergency. Its impact is now measured in human lives,” Arasaradnam writes while citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecast: “that by 2050, climate change-related factors will cost 250 000 lives worldwide every year.”

The piece emphasizes the role of healthcare professionals in advocating for climate change policies.  “As healthcare professionals, it is our duty to advocate for policies we know would safeguard the health of current and future generations,” he says while expressing concern over government decisions. “It was deeply concerning therefore to see the government’s retreat from critical net zero policies recently, including postponing the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales from 2030 to 2035.”

Arasaradnam, who is also AG chair of the health sustainability group at RCP. underlines the health risks of air pollution.  “We also know that air pollution is an established silent killer that lurks in our cities, contributing to respiratory diseases, heart conditions, and over 40 000 premature deaths annually,” he highlights and criticizes the delay in implementing the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles. “Delaying targets means delaying action we could take today to protect our health.”

He calls for a transition from fossil fuels. “Replacement of fossil fuels must be the lynchpin of our strategy to reverse and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” he says while making a case for prioritizing environmental sustainability in healthcare. “And we must ensure environmental sustainability is effectively prioritized in the health service too, as the NHS itself contributes 40% of public sector emissions.”

Arasaradnam highlights the tangible impacts of climate change on health, such as the UK experiencing its hottest June on record and a significant increase in wildfires. He also points out that climate change contributes to issues like antimicrobial resistance, vector-borne infectious diseases, and global climate migration, all of which strain healthcare services.

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