PARIS: Climate change may wipe out the last 50 years’ gains in global health by ramping up heatwaves, flood, drought, hunger and disease, an expert panel said Tuesday.
“Climate change is a medical emergency,” said Hugh Montgomery, a University College London professor of health who co-chaired a commission set up by The Lancet journal.
Tackling the carbon emissions which cause the problem would yield many benefits for health, the panel said.
It would reduce air pollution that causes respiratory disease and cardiac stress.
Peripheral measures such as encouraging cycling and walking would also cut deaths from road accidents and rates of obesity and diabetes.
The review coincides with UN negotiations supposed to culminate in a global carbon-cutting deal in Paris in December.
“The implications of climate change for a global population of nine billion people threaten to undermine the last half-century of gains in development and global health,” the experts said.
“The direct effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought and increased frequency of intense storms.”
The indirect effects on health come from urban smog, food insecurity and spread of mosquito-borne disease as insects spread to warmer habitats.
Fixing the source of the problem “could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century,” the review suggested.
Many choices are “‘no-regret’ options, which lead to direct reduction in the burden of ill health, enhance community resilience, alleviate poverty and address global inequity.”
It is the third such warning to be sounded by specialists in less than a last year, coming on the heel of landmark reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Britain’s Royal Society.
Montgomery lashed the torturously slow process for negotiating a global climate deal.
The crisis “demands an emergency response, using the technologies available right now,” he said.
“Under such circumstances, no doctor would consider a series of annual case discussions and aspirations adequate, yet this is exactly how the global response to climate change is proceeding.”