More than 200 scientific journals from across the world have joined together to publish an editorial calling on world leaders to take emergency actions to fight climate change, stop the destruction of our environment and limit global temperature increases. The editorial defends that recent targets to reduce CO2 emissions and plans to protect biodiversity are not enough, and more substantial long-term plans are needed.
“As health professionals, we must do all we can to aid the transition to a sustainable, fairer, resilient, and healthier world,” they write. “We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course.”
The editorial was published in several journals from every continent, including The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the East African Medical Journal, the Medical Journal of Australia and many other journals. This is the first time so many publications came together to publish the same editorial, indicating the severity of the threat we face in terms of climate change.
The publication is going out before the UN General Assembly next week in New York, USA and the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, UK in November. The editors believe this is a crucial time to call all countries to develop more ambitious plants to fight climate change to honour the goals of the Paris Agreement. “Global warming affects the future of our planet and right now it is affecting the lung health of all of its inhabitants across all ages, from young to old. This editorial is a call to world leaders at COP26 to take immediate and proportionate action to limit the rise in global temperatures”, said Professor Alan Smyth, Joint Editor-in-Chief of Thorax, one of the publications involved in this joint effort.
For decades, health professionals and scientists have been warning about the growing impact on health from climate change and loss of biodiversity. Destructive weather and degradation of essential ecosystems affects the most vulnerable, including children and elderly, poorer communities and patients with underlying health conditions. This editorial defends that it’s time for governments to intervene with new legislation to support the redesign of transport systems, production and distribution of food, markets and health systems.
“Health professionals have been on the frontline of the covid-19 crisis and they are united in warning that going above 1.5C and allowing the continued destruction of nature will bring the next, far deadlier crisis. Wealthier nations must act faster and do more to support those countries already suffering under higher temperatures. 2021 has to be the year the world changes course – our health depends on it”, said Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief of The BMJ, and one of the co-authors of the editorial.
These changes will require substantial investment, but they will come with massive positive results, including reduced air pollution, improved housing and diet, and increased physical activity, to name just a few. “What we must do to tackle pandemics, health inequities, and climate change is the same – global solidarity and action that recognise that, within and across nations our destinies are inextricably linked, just as human health is inextricably linked to the health of the planet”, said Seye Abimbola, Editor-in-Chief of BMJ Global Health.
The editorial by itself will not achieve much. Results rely on cooperation between wealthy nations and a commitment to do more to build cleaner, healthier, and more resilient societies.
If you want to read the editorial, you can find it here.