Global warming is already affecting people’s health and the situation is only going to get worse unless governments get their act together and take real action to combat the climate crisis, editors of more than 230 medical journals said in a joint editorial. In a reflection of how dire the situation is, this marks the first time so many publications have joined forces to send a united message. “Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades,” the editorial reads. “The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5° C and to restore nature.”
The editorial notes there are many well-established links between global warming and health woes. “Higher temperatures have brought increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality,” notes the editorial. If global temperatures rise above 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels, along with the accompanying loss of biodiversity, there is a risk of “catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse,” the editors warn.
Even though many governments and businesses are setting targets to reduce emissions, that isn’t enough. And the lack of action means temperature increases “are likely to be well in excess of 2° C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability,” the editors write. Even though the world is understandably concerned with COVID-19, “we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.” In a statement ahead of the publication of the editorial World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that the “risks posed by climate change could dwarf those of any single disease.” Eventually the pandemic will end, “but there is no vaccine for the climate crisis.”