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Emergency: Climate Crisis!
The Lancet and 220 Medical Journals Post a Searing Editorial
About Combating Our Most Urgent Health Crisis: Climate Change
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September 5, 2021 -- Planet Earth -- 44 years ago, The Lancet published the case study of the first coronary angioplasty, performed by Andreas Gruentzig. What then was a minor curiosity has today become the gold standard for treating heart attacks.

But an editorial published today targets a disease far more destructive than coronary artery narrowings. The Lancet, along with over 220 medical journals, today posted an editorial about the largest, most serious, health threat known to us today. It's not heart disease, or cancer, or COVID-19. It's climate change! And it can't be cured by angioplasty or surgery or chemo. In the words of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, "The COVID-19 pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine for the climate crisis." Read on.

The Lancet press release states:

Never have so many journals combined to publish the same editorial. The editorial is being published in advance of the UN General Assembly, one of the last international meetings taking place before the (COP26) climate conference in Glasgow, UK in November. This is a crucial moment to urge all countries to deliver enhanced and ambitious climate plans to honour the goals of the Paris Agreement. In a year of Covid-19 and crucial environmental conferences, the editorial warns that the greatest threat to global public health into the future is the continued failure of world leaders to take adequate action to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature.

Current promises are not enough
For decades, health professionals and health journals have warned of the severe and growing impacts on health from climate change and the destruction of nature. Heat related mortality, health impacts from destructive weather events and the widespread degradation of ecosystems essential to human health are just a few of the impacts that we are seeing more of due to a changing climate. These impacts disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, ethnic minorities, poorer communities and those with underlying health conditions.

The editorial warns that while recent targets to reduce emissions and conserve nature are welcome, they are not enough and are yet to be matched with credible short and longer term plans. It urges governments to intervene to transform societies and economies, for example by supporting the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, and health systems. Such investments will produce huge positive benefits, including high quality jobs, reduced air pollution, increased physical activity, and improved housing and diet. Better air quality alone would realize health benefits that easily offset the global costs of emissions reductions. These measures will also improve the social and economic determinants of health, the poor state of which may have made populations more vulnerable to the covid-19 pandemic.

Global cooperation hinges on wealthy nations doing more
The editorial argues that sufficient global action can only be achieved if high-income countries do far more to support the rest of the world and to reduce their own consumption. Developed countries must commit to increasing climate finance: fulfilling their outstanding commitment to provide $100 billion a year, have a dual focus on mitigation and adaptation, including improving the resilience of health systems. Crucially, the editorial argues that this money should be provided in the form of grants, rather than loans, and should come alongside forgiving large debts, which constrain the agency of so many low-income countries. Additional funding must be marshalled to compensate for inevitable loss and damage caused by the consequences of the environmental crisis.

Any warming makes our planet more unsafe, and the recent IPCC report shows that until the world has reached net-zero greenhouse gases the planet will continue to warm. We are already seeing these impacts globally and we already know that the consequences of the environmental crisis fall disproportionately on those countries and communities that have contributed least to the problem. A business as usual scenario would spell disaster for the planet. Governments must seize this opportunity to put forward ambitious climate goals for the sake of our health, for people worldwide and future generations.

We urge our readers to access the full editorial and think about ways in which each of us can act to impact this most important health issue amd, more importantly, ways in which we can influence our governments through political pressure and elections to move more swiftly on this crisis.

Reported by Burt Cohen, September 5, 2021