Forget the Swine Flu pandemic, climate change remainss “the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century”, according to The Lancet and University College London.
Climate change could be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects on health of climate change will be felt by most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. During this century, the earth’s average surface temperature rises are likely to exceed the safe threshold of 2°C above pre-industrial average temperature.
This report outlines the major threats—both direct and indirect—to global health from climate change through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population migration. Although vector-borne diseases will expand their reach and death tolls, the indirect effects of climate change on water, food security, and extreme climatic events are likely to have the biggest effect on global health.
A new advocacy and public health movement is needed urgently to bring together governments, international agencies, non-governmental organisations, communities, and academics from all disciplines to adapt to the effects of climate change on health. Any adaptation should sit alongside the need for primary mitigation: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to increase carbon bio-sequestration through reforestation and improved agricultural practices. The recognition by governments and electorates that climate change has enormous health implications should assist the advocacy and political change needed to tackle both mitigation and adaptation.
The major difference between Climate Change and Swine Flu is that a flu pandemic is inevitable; climate change is not – yet!