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Climate Change: Global Health Opportunity of the 21st Century

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change reports that responding to climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.  The effects of climate change could be catastrophic for the health of the world’s population of 9 billion. The commission states:

“The direct effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought, and increased frequency of intense storms, with the indirect threatening population health through adverse changes in air pollution, the spread of disease vectors, food insecurity and undernutrition, displacement, and mental ill health.”

Climate change has the potential to reverse the health gains of the last fifty years of economic growth.  But the health benefits of tackling climate change and promoting a sustainable economy creates a great opportunity for global change. Strategies will benefit global health systems by reducing pressure, providing cost savings, and enabling investment.

The commission has made 10 policy recommendations:

  1. Invest in climate change and public health research, monitoring, and surveillance.
  2. Scale-up financing for climate resilient health systems worldwide.
  3. Protect cardiovascular and respiratory health by ensuring a rapid phase out of coal from the global energy mix.
  4. Encourage a transition to cities that support and promote lifestyles that are healthy for the individual and the planet.
  5. Establish the framework for a strong, predictable, and international carbon pricing mechanism.
  6. Rapidly expand access to renewable energy in low-income and middle-income countries.
  7. Support accurate quantification of the avoided burden of disease, reduced health-care costs, and enhanced economic productivity associated with a low-carbon economy.
  8. Facilitate governmental collaboration, empowering health professionals and ensuring that health and climate considerations are thoroughly integrated in government-wide strategies.
  9. Agree to and implement an international agreement that supports countries in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
  10. Work with the 2015 Lancet Commission to develop an independent Countdown to 2030: Global Health and Climate Action, designed to monitor progress on the implementation of climate change policies that promote health over the next 15 years.

Read the full report from the Commission here.