Climate and health are intimately linked, so countries must set ambitious commitments to sustain a healthy and green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the intimate and delicate links between humans, animals and our environment,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO released a special report on Climate Change and Health ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland known as COP26 from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
The report spells out a prescription climate action for the global health community based on growing research establishing the many inseparable links between climate and health.
“The same unsustainable choices that are killing our planet are killing people,” said Tedros.
The WHO is calling on all nations to commit to decisive action at COP26 to limit global warming to 1.5 C – “not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s in our interests.”
The WHO said its report underscores 10 priorities for safeguarding the health of people and the planet that sustains humanity.
The report’s launch coincides with an open letter it says is signed by more than two-thirds of the global health workforce - 300 organizations representing at least 45 million doctors and health professionals worldwide.
- Call to national leaders
The letter calls for national leaders and COP26 country delegations to step up climate action.
“Wherever we deliver care, in our hospitals, clinics, and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health harms caused by climate change,” the letter says.
“We call on the leaders of every country and their representatives at COP26 to avert the impending health catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5°C and to make human health and equity central to all climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.”
The release also comes as unprecedented extreme weather events and other climate impacts take a rising toll on people’s lives and health.
“Increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms and floods kill thousands and disrupt millions of lives while threatening health care systems and facilities when they are needed most,” said the WHO.
It explained that changes in weather and climate threaten food security, driving up food-, water- and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, while climate impacts also negatively affect mental health.
“The burning of fossil fuels is killing us,” says the report.
“Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. While no one is safe from the health impacts of climate change, they are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.”
Air pollution, primarily the result of burning fossil fuels, which also drives climate change, causes 13 deaths a minute worldwide, according to the WHO.