Action on climate change will improve health and save lives now and in the future | Imperial News



Measures to combat climate change could greatly benefit human health in the coming years, as well as in the long term, according to a new report.

Released today, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Royal Society report calls on the UK government to ensure that the initiatives they put in place to tackle climate change are also designed to deliver benefits for health.

The report brought together 11 leading experts, including Professor Emeritus Jo Haigh and Professor Frank Kelly of Imperial College London, to examine evidence from various sources regarding the health impacts of anti-change initiatives. climate.

We would like the UK government to seize the opportunity offered by COP26 to show global leadership and put health at the forefront of the climate discourse. Professor Joanna Haigh

It concludes that if health is placed at the heart of the climate agenda, measures taken to achieve net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050 will have short-term human health benefits in the UK. -United, while helping to reduce health risks. global climate change.

Report Co-Chair Professor Joanna Haigh, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial, said: “Climate change poses a catastrophic threat to humanity and the natural systems that underpin our lives.

“It is clear that tackling climate change will have a positive impact on human health in the long term, but our report provides evidence that many of the actions needed in the UK to achieve the goal of net zero gas emissions greenhouse effect by 2050 will also benefit our health in the short term.

“We would like the UK government to seize the opportunity offered by COP26 to show global leadership and put health at the forefront of the climate discourse. “

Health at the heart of discussions on climate change

The report urges UK policymakers and donors to put health benefits at the heart of discussions, debates and actions on climate change. Here are key examples of areas where action on climate change has a positive impact on health:

  • Phasing out fossil fuels: The shift from fossil fuels to cleaner electricity generation will reduce air pollution, improve health and save lives. Air pollution causes between 28,000 and 36,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, many of which could be avoided by phasing out fossil fuels. The extent of the health benefits of the net zero transition will depend on the energy mix. For example, the substantial use of biomass to replace fossil fuels will reduce the expected health benefits from increased air pollution from fine particle emissions.
  • To travel: Domestic transport, mainly from road vehicles, is responsible for 27% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Electric cars charging in a streetSupport for public transport, increased cycling and walking, as well as a shift to electric vehicles, will lead to environmental and health benefits through increased physical activity and reduced air pollution. The daily increase in walking and cycling in cities in England and Wales – similar to Copenhagen levels – could reduce heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other illnesses with potential savings for the NHS by £ 17 billion over 20 years.
  • Food production and feeding: Food production accounts for 23% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Continuing to reduce the consumption of red meat in the UK while increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent or delay deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer. A healthy diet containing less red and processed meats and more fruits and vegetables is expected to increase average life expectancy by about eight months and reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by about 17%.
  • Buildings: In 2019, buildings were responsible for 17% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Low temperatures are linked to up to 50,000 deaths per year – warmer, better insulated homes should therefore prevent some of these premature deaths, as well as lower fuel bills. Adequate ventilation is also necessary to ensure indoor air quality and maximize health benefits.
  • Health care: Health systems around the world are responsible for 4 to 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, the NHS was the first national health system to commit to reducing net direct emissions by 2040 and indirect emissions by 2045.

“Win-win” actions

The report noted that while the impact of climate change mitigation strategies was primarily positive, there could also be unintended negative health effects.

Special attention needs to be paid to the international supply chains and economic systems that will underpin the global net-zero transition – for example, reliance on batteries for renewable energy means that more must be extracted. cobalt, which can have negative effects on the health of the communities concerned.

A vegan meal seen aboveThe report also calls for climate change initiatives to be rigorously and systematically monitored for their health impacts, and for researchers from different disciplines to work together to help maximize health benefits.

Report Co-Chair Professor Sir Andy Haines said: “Our report provides many ‘win-win’ examples of actions that would have a positive impact on health and the climate. Sectors such as transport, food, construction and energy should consider health when implementing climate actions to capitalize on these double benefits.

“Many measures, such as improving access to public transport and energy-efficient housing, could also help reduce health inequalities. “

Read the full report, “A Healthy Future: Tackling Climate Change Mitigation and Human Health Together” and a public summary of the findings on the Academy of Medical Sciences website.

Article based on a press release from the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Image credits:

Cycling: Lena Ivanova / Shutterstock

Electric cars: Scharfsinn / Shutterstock

Vegan meal: / Shutterstock


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