Climate change is (still) the greatest global health threat of the century, according to a fresh report from the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change. The commission report, published June 23, argues that failing to slow climate change could effectively reverse progress toward global health made in the last 50 years. The commission’s claims are backed up by a new Environmental Protection Agency report released the same day, which points to health as a major risk area impacted by climate change.
Climate change has led to increased pollution, extreme weather events, heat waves, and conditions that cause seasonal allergies and changes in infectious disease patterns. The latest Lancet report illustrates very little has changed since the commission’s first report was issued six years ago. The new report urges governments to invest in health monitoring, turn away from coal energy, and expand renewable energy. As part of the report, the commission developed an independent Countdown to 2030: Global Health and Climate Action, “to provide expertise in implementing policies that mitigate climate change and promote public health, and to monitor progress over the next 15 years.”
While some global leaders have been reluctant to name climate change as a public health issue, others are beginning to speak out about the important connection. Even President Barack Obama only admitted the link this April, when he blamed environmental changes for his daughter Malia’s asthma attacks. And last week, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on climate change, a 183-page indictment of man’s influence on and responsibility for the health of our planet and its people.
With any luck, the new reports from the Lancet Commission and the EPA will spark more conversations on a global scale about how to address the real problem of climate change and its side effects. “Climate change is a medical emergency,” Commission co-Chair Professor Hugh Montgomery, director of the University College London’s Institute for Human Health and Performance, said in a press release. “It thus demands an emergency response, using the technologies available right now.”