“Climate change is a health emergency”

The climate crisis has been described by more than 200 health journals, in an unprecedented joint editorial last year, as risking “catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”

Increasing temperatures have led to heat-related illness. Climate change has become a persistent danger to food security. El Niño weather patterns cause about 6 million children to go hungry — and could increase as the planet warms.

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Last month, a hunger strike came to an end:

Climate activist Angus Rose ends hunger strike after 37 days | LondonWorld

Angus Rose (@Angus_Climate) / Twitter

Not that the press or politicians had been particularly interested at the time:

Climate hunger striker expresses shock at being ignored by ministers | Climate crisis | The Guardian

And not everyone is comfortable with “the tactic of a public hunger strike” – and yet this action produced this open letter to the Prime Minister:

Senior health professionals call for urgent climate briefing of all MPs by the chief scientific adviser: open letter to PM

An open letter signed by clinicians, scientists, and public health experts to UK prime minister Boris Johnson:

We wish to make you aware of our concern for the health of Angus Rose, a 52 year old man, who at the time of writing is on day 34 of a hunger strike outside Parliament, consuming only fluids, vitamins, and minerals.
His not unreasonable demand is that all members of parliament including the cabinet are briefed on the climate crisis by Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser. This is because you described the briefing you received from Patrick Vallance on 28 January 2020 as a “Road to Damascus” moment.1 The climate crisis has been described by more than 200 health journals, in an unprecedented joint editorial last year, as risking “catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”2

Like our fellow scientist colleagues, we are not all in agreement with the tactic of a public hunger strike.3 However, we agree it is essential that the latest scientific evidence on the climate crisis is officially and openly communicated to the cabinet and members of parliament by the government’s chief scientific adviser, just as was done during the height of the covid-19 crisis. We believe this would help the government take the urgent action required to decarbonise the country at the scale and speed required.

Those of us who have spoken to Angus Rose believe him to be of sound mind. He says he does not want to die but is prepared to do so because he is “terrified” for the future of his nephews and niece. It is our ardent wish that a solution can be found that will prevent this. His health is now precarious. He has already passed one checkpoint which indicates severe risk to life: a drop of 18% body weight. We ask you urgently to work to resolve this situation before it reaches the point of no return.

Yours sincerely,
Fiona Godlee, former editor in chief, The BMJ
And in alphabetical order, all signing in a personal capacity:

Senior health professionals call for urgent climate briefing of all MPs by the chief scientific adviser: open letter to PM | The BMJ

And so, results came four days later:

It was confirmed that MPs would be briefed on the climate crisis by the chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, chaired by Caroline Lucas, has said that it will be happy to host the briefings and that these will take place in the next two months. They will be recorded and made available to the public.

MPs will be briefed on climate change after health leaders back hunger striker’s demands | The BMJ

A hunger strike is indeed extreme action – but it’s interesting that it was a letter from health professionals which helped to push for a response from MPs.

But, then, health professionals have been saying this for years:

Climate change is a health emergency | The BMJ (2014)

Climate change is a health emergency | LSHTM (2019)

The climate emergency is a health emergency | RCP London (2020)

Climate change ‘is a health emergency’ (2021)

And it hasn’t gone away – but, rather, the interlinked issues have become even more apparent.

Dr Hugh Montgomery was a signatory to the letter to the PM – and here he is giving an excellent presentation earlier this month:

Climate change is a health emergency – so how should we respond? | Easyfairs (livestorm.co)

Hugh Montgomery (physician) – Wikipedia

This is from the Washington Post over the weekend:

Climate change is increasingly viewed as a public health crisis

For the first time, the American Medical Association adopted a policy declaring climate change a public health crisis. The nation’s largest physician trade group voted yesterday to put its lobbying heft behind policies aimed at limiting global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The AMA will also create a strategy detailing what physician practices and the health-care sector can do to combat climate change.

This comes amid a growing sense that global warming is a threat to the health of people across the globe. And there’s a burgeoning sentiment that the health industry needs to be part of the response.

The new efforts are coming from the nation’s health department — which recently established an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, though Congress is yet to fund its work — on down to medical professionals who traveled to Scotland for this year’s United Nations climate summit. “Taking action now won’t reverse all of the harm done, but it will help prevent further damage to our planet and our patients’ health and well-being,” Ilse R. Levin, an AMA board member, said in a statement.

The latest:

Here’s why advocates say climate change is a public health threat: Increasing temperatures have led to heat-related illness. Climate change has become a persistent danger to food security. El Niño weather patterns cause about 6 million children to go hungry — and could increase as the planet warms.

Over the years, there’s been a notable shift among the health profession in recognizing how rising global temperatures endanger the health of millions of people.

  • The National Academy of Medicine launched a public-private partnership to address the health industry’s environmental impact. As of April, more than 110 organizations have joined the effort.
  • Last year’s U.N. climate change conference framed the issue as a critical public health problem, our Climate 202 pal Maxine Joselow reported.
  • The World Health Organization referred to climate change as “the single biggest health threat facing humanity” in an October special report.
  • Health groups — including the AMA, America’s Physician Groups and the American Academy of Nursing — signed onto a 2019 climate change agenda calling the issue “a true public health emergency.”

Climate change is increasingly viewed as a public health crisis – The Washington Post

The same concerns have been expressed in no uncertain terms around the world:

Chief Medical Officer warns climate change poses a ‘serious health risk’ to the most vulnerable in Wales in annual report | GOV.WALES

Dengue fever cases rocket in Singapore as experts blame climate change for high mosquito numbers

   
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