Climate change will hit human health harder than COVID-19

Climate change is hitting human health harder than the COVID-19 pandemic, which could lead to an imminent “looming health catastrophe.” Doctors and scientists called for targeted action to prevent this in the lead-up to the UN Climate Summit (COP26) on on October 19 and 20.

The open letter, signed by more than 450 organizations representing 45 million health care workers, called on national leaders and country delegations to focus on human health in the context of climate change. They called for putting “human health and equity” at the heart of climate change mitigation and adaptation at the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November. Experts have warned that the Earth’s temperature will rise by 2.7-3.1 degrees Celsius this century.

“The community of health professionals from around the world came together for this letter because we are deeply concerned about the impact [of climate change] we are now seeing on human health. We know that it will get much worse if climate change is not fully addressed,” explained Janie Miller, chair of the American Public Health Association’s Environmental Section.

Doctors noted that air pollution, especially from burning fossil fuels, causes more than seven million premature deaths each year, the equivalent of 13 deaths every minute. Also of concern is the increase in food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, as well as the devastation caused by rising sea levels and the increasing frequency of floods, storms and heat waves.

“We call on each country’s leaders and their representatives at the COP26 summit to prevent an impending health catastrophe by working to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Make human health and justice central to all climate change mitigation and adaptation actions,” the health professionals urged in the letter.

As part of the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 to combat climate change, governments pledged to take action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But according to Miller, authorities in different countries have not yet taken action at the level needed to achieve that goal.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP26) is being organized by Britain and Italy Oct. 31-Nov. 12, 2021, at the Scottish Convention Centre in Glasgow, Britain. The event was originally supposed to take place in November 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.