Climate Change is a health as well as an environment emergency

‘Many nations are poorly prepared to face threats to health from climate change, and with our interconnected global economy, this will have an impact on the whole world,’ warns Professor Sir Andy Haines from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in the Daily Telegraph.
Sunset on landscape with wind turbines. Credit: Graham Ooko/Alamy

Responding to a new World Health Organization study, Sir Andy Haines, Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health at LSHTM and a member of its Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health, says that ‘climate change is a threat to global and national security that is costing lives and livelihoods right now’. 

He highlights the risks to health due to heat stress, extreme weather events and mosquitoes, and that ‘even the food available for us to eat is at risk’ through crop failure and the impact on the production of foods that are essential for a healthy and sustainable diet.

However, Sir Andy points to a brighter forecast by explaining that ‘rapid action will bring benefits, not just by reducing the risks of dangerous climate change but also by reducing air pollution’. With Glasgow hosting the UN Climate Conference in 2020 (COP26), he urges the UK to ‘seize the chance to make 2020 the year that health reaches the top of the climate change agenda. Mitigating climate change is not just about protecting our planet and its precious biodiversity, it’s about improving health and saving lives now and in the future’. 

Sir Andy Haines will be playing major role at the WHO’s Global Climate and Health Summit on Saturday 7 December, as the event’s rapporteur.

LSHTM’s Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health (CCCPH) aims to ‘future-proof our world’ by identifying the challenges to human health caused by climate and environmental change and implementing solutions. With the Centre Virchow-Villerme for Public Health Paris-Berlin, the Centre hosted the side event for COP25, currently taking place in Madrid, Spain, The imperative for urgent climate action to protect health on Thursday 5 December. Sir Andy Haines and LSHTM’s Dr Pauline Scheelbeek joined a panel of experts to discuss the health benefits of climate action.

Dr Scheelbeek said: "We have the knowledge and skills to make an impact and work towards truly sustainable and healthy food systems. Particularly in the Global North, Medical practitioners and students need to make people aware of the health and environmental consequences of diets.”

In January 2020, CCCPH in partnership with MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM and the Government of The Gambia, will host Climate change and planetary health in West Africa: reviewing evidence, identifying gaps, finding solutions.

In West Africa, more than 75% of the population are affected at least once every two years by natural phenomena that are increasingly violent and devastating due to climate change. This event will focus on the impacts of current and projected environmental change on health and human wellbeing in the region, as well as showcase and stimulate existing and new planetary health research being conducted. It will also facilitate crucial mentorship and training of young scientists to help ensure a new cadre of planetary experts in West Africa.

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