Climate Change Threatens Health and Security, Say Experts
Science and environmental health experts met in London and urged governments around the world to immediately tackle climate change, which they say threatens health and security of people everywhere. The conference was hosted by the British Medical Journal.
Climate change is a real and present danger
Despite the presence of difficult economic times, “we must not fail to take tough measures…there is a real need for more commitment and more action at a national, international and industrial level,” warned Lord Michael Jay, Chairman of Merlin. Jay was just one of many distinguished scientists, public figures, and environmental health experts to sign a statement warning that climate change has the potential to threaten the stability and security of the entire planet.
The experts explained that climate changes such as rising temperatures and unstable weather patterns will lead to loss of habitat and ecosystems, food and water shortages, spread of disease, and potentially mass migrations with accompanying conflicts within and between nations. These crises “will further burden military resources” and result in additional tragedies.
To help ward off these disasters, professor Hugh Montgomery, director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance said, “It is not enough for politicians to deal with climate change as some abstract academic concept,” and warned that “the price of complacency will be paid in human lives and suffering.” He added that “Tackling climate change can avoid this, while related lifestyle changes independently produce significant health benefits.”
The statement pointed out that even “modest life style changes—such as increasing physical activity through walking and cycling—will cut rates of heart disease and stroke, obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, dementia and depressive illness. Climate change mitigation policies would thus significantly cut rates of preventable death and disability for hundreds of millions of people around the world.”
Some of the specific demands made in a statement by the attendees of the climate change meeting include:
- All governments should adopt climate change mitigation goals and policies that are more ambitious than their international commitments
- All governments should enact legislative changes to halt the production of new unabated coal-fired power plants and phase out the continuing operation of existing plants.
- All developed countries should adopt more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, increase their support of low carbon development, invest in more research into the impact of climate change on health and security
- The European Union should unconditionally agree to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by the year 2020 and also prepare further goals toward 2050
- Developing countries should identify the main ways in which climate change threatens the health and governance of their nations and undertake mitigation and adaptation activities
- Establish a mechanism by which all people can share equitably the benefits of a safe atmosphere without penalizing those who have the least historical responsibility for climate change
Topics discussed at the conference included “Environmental Stressors and Climate Change,” “The Health Impacts of Climate Change,” “Security Implications of Climate Change,” Health, Security and Economic Benefits of Tackling Climate Change,” and Politics and Policies, Making Change Happen.” One can only hope much more than talk was accomplished at this meeting.