Climate Change and Health Resource Center

Climate Change and Health Resource Center

Source:

Press Release

Disclosures: Godlee reports serving on the executive committee for the U.K. Health Alliance on Climate Change and being a Trustee of the Eden Project. Please see the editorial for all other authors' relevant financial disclosures.
September 08, 2021
2 min read
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Leading health journals publish joint editorial on 'climate crisis'

Source:

Press Release

Disclosures: Godlee reports serving on the executive committee for the U.K. Health Alliance on Climate Change and being a Trustee of the Eden Project. Please see the editorial for all other authors' relevant financial disclosures.
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In an unprecedented collaborative move, 220 leading health journals published a joint editorial on climate change, calling on world leaders to take swift action to protect the planet and safeguard public health.

Never have so many journals published the same editorial, according to a press release.

City on a hot day
More than 200 health journals published a joint editorial calling for emergency action to combat the “climate crisis.” Source: Adobe Stock. 

“The risks posed by climate change could dwarf those of any single disease. The COVID-19 pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine for the climate crisis,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, director-general of WHO, said in the release. “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report shows that every fraction of a degree hotter endangers our health and future. Similarly, every action taken to limit emissions and warming brings us closer to a healthier and safer future.”

The editorial was published ahead of the impending U.N. General Assembly meeting this month in New York City, the U.N. Biodiversity Summit in October in Kunming, China, and the U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

The journals involved in the joint editorial include Allergy, The BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine, SLEEP, Advances in Nutrition and The Lancet.

“The threat of climate change is urgent and comes at an unprecedented time for planetary and human health,” The Lancet said in a statement to Healio Primary Care. “Collaborating with other leading journals on this editorial ensures our concerns and calls for change are powerfully delivered to global leaders ahead of UNGA and COP26.”

The authors of the editorial wrote that “health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world.”

“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the preindustrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse,” Lukoye Atwoli, PhD, editor in chief of the East African Medical Journal, and colleagues wrote.

The authors recognized current global difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but said “we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

“Reflecting the severity of the moment, this Comment appears in health journals across the world. We are united in recognizing that only fundamental and equitable changes to societies will reverse our current trajectory,” they wrote.

The authors stressed that health professionals “must hold global leaders to account and continue to educate others about the health risks of the crisis.” Their goal is to achieve “environmentally sustainable health systems” by 2040. However, targets and promises are “not enough,” according to the authors. Fundamental changes to how society is organized are required to meet the challenges ahead.

“Health professionals have been on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis. And they are united in warning that going above 1.5°C and allowing the continued destruction of nature will bring the next, far deadlier crisis,” Fiona Godlee, MD, editor in chief of The BMJ, said in the release. “Wealthier nations must act faster and do more to support those countries already suffering under higher temperatures. 2021 has to be the year the world changes course — our health depends on it."

Several other journal editors and global leaders commented on the editorial, including Eric J. Rubin, MD, PhD, editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The environment and health are inextricably intertwined. The changing climate is endangering us in many ways, including its critical impacts on health and health care delivery,” Rubin said in the release. “As medical and public health practitioners, we have an obligation not only to anticipate new health care needs but also to be active participants in limiting the causes of the climate crisis.”

References:

Atwoli L, et al. Lancet. 2021;doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01915-2.