Climate change and planetary health
Human progress for health and prosperity has facilitated unprecedented developments in medicine, agriculture and industry, and improved the lives of many people. But our activities have been unsustainable and have caused widespread environmental damage in the atmosphere, on land, and in the oceans.
These major impacts, that will leave their footprint in the earth’s geological record, have led to the definition of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.
Significant increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, resulting from human actions such as the burning of fossil fuels, are raising global temperatures, and have caused air pollution, biodiversity loss, depletion of water and food, and heightened the risk of natural disasters.
Existing social and health inequalities are being magnified as the most vulnerable population feel the effects first, including the poorest in society, women, children and older people, and those in high-risk areas such as tropical megacities, coastal areas, and small islands.
We must now understand how these environmental changes are affecting human health, identify effective solutions to support those most at risk and propose ways to live on our planet more sustainably. The term ‘Planetary Health’ was coined in 2013 by the Rockefeller Foundation, a council led by high-profile leaders, and is defined as the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.
The field of planetary health is developing fast and requires transdisciplinary research that focuses on policy and real-world interventions. Ensuring the widespread inclusion of planetary health perspectives is essential if we are to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and identify solutions for people and the planet.