‘Climate change ‘to reverse health advances’

Climate change

Children are treated for air pollution related illness at Xi’an children’s hospital in Xi an, China. Photograph: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

•Experts say past 50 years of progress could be wiped out if Earth’s temperature increases 

A panel of medical experts has warned climate change could wipe out the past 50 years’ progress in human health. The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change argued that the threat to the planet was a ‘medical emergency’ but said that responding to it offered an opportunity to improve human health.

For example, scrapping coal burning power stations would cut the production of greenhouse gases and reduce pollutants in the atmosphere that are leading to respiratory diseases.

The commission also called for the introduction of ‘carbon pricing’ – a move that could push up the price of air travel such as ‘short hop, short-term, leisure travel, stag-parties in Barcelona’.

Director of the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London, Prof. Paul Ekins, said: “That sort of thing could become quite a bit more expensive, such that people would think twice about doing that.

“People would have more money in their pockets from cuts to other taxes and if they ‘really valued those stag nights in Barcelona, they can still do it but they’d have to give up more in order to have it.”

Cutting air pollution as part of efforts to tackle climate change, for example by reducing transport emissions or coal-fired power stations, in the EU alone could save 38 billion euro (£27 billion) a year by 2050 due to reduced deaths, the report said.

The health sector also needs to develop clean energy, promote community care so patients do not have to drive to hospitals, and use asthma inhalers which do not contain greenhouse gases, the commission said.

In a stark warning, the authors of the report – published in the latest edition of The Lancet medical journal – said the world was on track for 4C of warming, with many more people at risk from a rise in extreme weather events.

Rising global temperatures would see health hit through storms, floods and droughts, starvation, migration and conflict, as well as other possible impacts including shifting patterns of infectious diseases such as malaria.

Commission co-chairman Prof. Anthony Costello, director of UCL’s Institute for Global Health, said: “On our current trajectory, going to 4C is somewhere we don’t want to go, and that has very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival.

It could undermine all the last half century gains. “As such we see that as a medical emergency, as the action we need to do to stop that in its tracks and get us back on to a 2C trajectory or less requires action now, and action in the next 10 years otherwise the game could be over.”

Rising global temperatures would see health hit through storms, floods and droughts, starvation, migration and conflict, as well as other possible impacts including shifting patterns of infectious diseases such as malaria.

He added: “It is a great global health opportunity. We’re getting fatter, we’re getting heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, respiratory ill health, depression, anxiety.

“All of the things we want to do to protect ourselves against climate change will improve our health, whether it’s active transport, walking, cycling, eating healthier, sustainable, local diets or cutting air pollution. “All of that will have a huge health dividend, health benefit and save a lot of money.” *Culled from DailyMailOnline

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