Public Health Emergency – Climate Change

The climate has always changed, but in the past we have heard about it mostly from scientists, and about how it is impacting our world, whereas we are now hearing from doctor’s that it is also a threat to our health.

The Earth is holding the most carbon dioxide in at least 800,000 years, and although CO2 is the key to living on this planet, too much can wreak climatic havoc around the world. All countries are at risk, and the most vulnerable people including the elderly and children are most exposed to the risks.

A new landmark report in one of the most renowned medical journals, the Lancet, is part of an international research project on climate and human health. The report notes that comprehensive climate action could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”

Local air pollution around the world comes straight out of exhaust pipes, and kills about 6.5 million people annually. Annually, air pollution across the UK is linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths.

There is clear evidence that long-term exposure to air pollution has a wide range of adverse effects across the lifetime, and can lead to the development of conditions such as asthma, strokes, and heart attacks in susceptible individuals. There are also links between air pollution and type 2 diabetes, obesity and dementia.

The report’s analysis claimed that there has been a 46% increase in extreme weather disasters since 2000, with typhoons and hurricanes feeding off unnaturally warm waters to deliver more forceful threats to human health.

The diagnosis reveals that hundreds of millions of people are already suffering the health impacts of climate change, and we are only just beginning to witness the manifestation of very concerning trends.

While the report tells us about exactly how climate change impacts on our health, it also shows that tackling climate change directly can immediately improve global health.

What is the government doing?

The government has taken and is taking some positive steps to address air pollution and climate change such as:

  • Planned phase out of coal power stations by 2025 which will save the NHS up to £3.1bn a year in health costs
  • Banning of sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040
  • New statutory air quality plan for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), setting out how the UK will be reducing roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations.
  • Many cities such as London and Oxford, as well as major automotive companies have declared an end to the internal combustion engine, and are working towards emissions-free transport.

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