An editorial written jointly by the editors of more than 230 medical journals worldwide has a grim warning for humanity: Climate change is making people sick – and it's going to get worse.
As reported by CNN, the same global warming that's causing extreme weather events has had a number of negative impacts on human health during the past two decades, the journal editors said. And if the earth – where global temperatures have already risen by 1.2°C – reaches 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, that could be catastrophic for human health, the editors wrote.
The numerous health issues already linked to climate change range from increases in heat deaths, dehydration and loss of kidney function to chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease. A warming planet is also contributing to skin cancer, tropical infections, allergies, mental health issues and pregnancy complications.
"Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades," the editorial reads.
The authors stressed that not enough is being done to curb the climate crisis. Greater action is needed than just urging the world and energy industry to switch from using fossil fuels to renewables, they said.
The authors also said efforts to reach "net zero" emissions were too reliant on unproven technology to remove the greenhouse gases being emitted. Being at net zero means removing as many greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as are released.
If global warming actually surpasses 2°C, as these editors predict, that would bring catastrophic extreme weather events.
"Despite the world's necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions," the authors wrote, calling on governments to respond to the climate crisis with the same spirit of "unprecedented funding" dedicated to the pandemic.
This was the first time so many health publications had come together to make a statement, "reflecting the severity of the climate change emergency now facing the world," said one journal, the BMJ, based in the United Kingdom.
Several meetings are planned between global leaders in the near future, including the UN General Assembly next week, an October biodiversity conference in Kunming, China, and climate talks in November in Glasgow, Scotland.
Climate issues expected to be on the agendas included the 1.5°C target, protecting biodiversity and ending the use of coal, CNN reported.
"The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C and to restore nature. Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world," the authors wrote. "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."