A video about climate change, sustainability and it's relevance to health services from Bournemouth and Poole PCT, UK
"Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”
Human-driven climate change is accepted by every major national scientific body worldwide and recognised as an immediate and grave threat.
Urgent action is needed to protect health from the worst effects of climate change. According to WHO, climate change resulted in the loss of 5.5 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) in 2000, a morbidity burden which is increasing.
Climate change, left unchecked, will cause changes in patterns of infectious disease, increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, water and food insecurity.
"If we design climate change policy to maximise the health benefits, it will be the silver lining to the cloud of global warming. It’s the only bit of good news in the whole story."
Professor Ian Roberts, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, CHC Board Member
Flooding and migration: A sea level rise of up to 13m would result in displacement and environmental mass migration of more than a billion people. Conservative estimates suggest that the sea could rise between 19 and 59 cms before the end of the century. Other estimates say it could be as much as 140 cms. If it is at the higher end, sea levels would engulf island nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, devastate coastal cities such as Calcutta and force London, New York and Shanghai to spend billions on flood defences.
Food insecurity: Agriculture is very dependent upon the availability of water at predictable times and in expected amounts. But climate change brings uncertainty. Climate change can create unstable weather patterns which destroy crops in flooding or drought.
Heat waves. The heat wave of 2003 caused 35,000 deaths across Europe. France was the worst hit with around 15,000 people dying from causes attributable to the blistering heat. This was more than 19 times the death toll from the SARS epidemic worldwide.
Vector borne and parasitic diseases. Insects, such as mosquitoes and trematode flatworms, are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and environment, and as our climate changes, patterns of disease are changing too.
Water insecurity. Climate change affects the distribution of the water across the globe. Rainfall can become more frequent or more intense in some areas, and leave others with droughts.
Climate change is increasing global inequality and health inequality.
The poorest people in the world contribute least to climate change, but suffer the worst effects. The carbon emissions produced by the poorest one billion people is around 3% of the world's total carbon emissions.
The loss of healthy life years as a result of global environmental change (including climate change) is predicted to be 500 times greater amongst African populations than amongst European populations. (WHO)
“Poverty cannot be eliminated while environmental degradation exacerbates malnutrition, disease and injury. Food supplies need continuing soil fertility, climatic stability, freshwater supplies and ecological support (such as pollination). Infectious diseases cannot be stabilised in circumstances of climatic instability, refugee flows and impoverishment.”
Tony McMichael, Professor in Climate Change and Human Health
The good news- what we can do
There are major health benefits to be gained from low-carbon living, including reductions in obesity, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illnesses. A new advocacy and public health movement is urgently needed, which frames the threat of climate change as a health issue for humankind, and steers towards healthier, low-carbon lifestyles and communities.
Understanding the health benefits of action to tackle climate change is essential for health professionals. Armed with this knowledge every health professional can act as an advocate for healthier societies living within our environment’s capacity.
Now you can go to the ACT page, to see what you can do.
More information on climate change and health...
What does the science say about climate change? To read more about the evidence on climate science and health, see the Climate Change page.
Blogs in the KNOW section:
On the Climate and Health Council ACT page, there is more information about what you can do.