Health and Climate Change: A Call for Immediate Action

June 23, 2015

    Le Monde
 • Updated




Acting against climate change is both an emergency and the opportunity to achieve the greatest progress for public health in the 21 e century. It is in these terms that the Commission’s report Lancet on health and climate change poses the challenge to humanity. Online on Tuesday, June 23 about the British medical weekly site [1,999,011], the document was written by a multidisciplinary European and Chinese academic team.

[1,999,001] This part of a collaboration between The Lancet and University College London (UCL), which had resulted in a first report in 2009 on the management of health effects of climate change. The 2009 report identified climate change as “ the greatest global threat to public health in the 21 e century” [1,999,026]. He estimates that in 2015 “the effects of climate change are already visible today and projections for the future are a potentially catastrophic risk of unacceptable magnitude to human health” .

[ 1999040] Imminent threat

“We started from the premise scientifically established the imminent threat of the impact of climate change on health” says Nick Watts (Institute for Global Health, UCL), one of the four coordinators of the report. The commission sees indeed the danger questioned the gains in global health and development acquired in the previous half century.

This would result from the direct effects of climate change are increasing heat stress (heat accumulation in the body), floods, drought and increased extreme events such as storms. But the indirect effects are added, such as air pollution, the spread of diseases transmitted by vectors (mosquitoes …), population displacement and mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress provoked by extreme weather events.

“That’s why we went beyond this observation to address policy responses to protect and promote public health, for example by reducing the Use the emissions of greenhouse gas linked to the use of coal, designing cities for people and not for cars, promoting active transportation “ says Nick Watts.

imperative to act

The finding and the need to act is shared in France by Agnès Lefranc, director of environmental health department of the Institute of Health Surveillance (VS) “The direct effects of rising temperatures and extreme events are well established now. The science shows that climate change, due to the direct effects and indirect effects has significant health consequences. It is therefore imperative to act. Act, this means both limiting emissions of greenhouse gas, but also adapt to climate change already accomplished because of past emissions. We issued a lot of greenhouse gases and we will not go back by stopping emissions. Even with a scenario limited to 2 ° C increase in temperature there will be an impact on population health. “

” If we act now, we can regain control of climate change and if we take the right steps, we will get co-benefits. For example by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, we will also reduce other pollutants such as particulates and nitrogen oxides. Promoting clean fuels for heating and cooking in developing countries will decrease indoor air pollution “ believes Agnes Lefranc.

Economic benefits

The report is of course an echo of the economics of climate change impacts. “The European Union has assessed at 1,600 billion dollars (1400 billion) annual cost of air pollution outside” says Nick Watts. “The European Commission has estimated that in the EU alone, the reduction of air pollution resulting from climate change mitigation policies could lead to benefits estimated at € 38 billion per year by 2050 thanks to a reduction in mortality “, the report published by The Lancet.

[1,999,025]” Likewise, adds Nick Watts promoting active transportation ( walking, cycling …) reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes and the development of green areas would have beneficial effects on mental health. If certain benefits or ancillary benefits will take time to be felt the positive impact on cardiovascular disease would have such measures as phasing out coal in the energy mix would be felt much faster. We saw this with the struggle against smoking when within two or three weeks after quitting smoking, there is a decrease in coronary events “.

Report of the Committee on Lancet reproduces a chart from a study by the Pew Research Center in 2013 on perceptions of the extent of the threat posed by climate change in 39 countries. It shows the strong awareness in different regions of the world but also underestimating this in the United States where the climatoscepticisme has many ins and powerful financial support.

Do not stick the words

Nick Watts reacted strongly to this situation: “There is enough evidence, even if the scientific approach requires us to continue studies. When a physician sees a child with a rash, fever, stiff neck … it performs biological samples that will be analyzed for bacteria or virus. But immediately, he will immediately put the child on antibiotics because it has symptoms of meningitis. It’s the same thing for the climate “.

The editorial Lancet accompanying the report urges world leaders to take action and not s ‘stick to words. He recalled that in 2014, for the sixth consecutive year, the global economy has not achieved the objectives set carbon emission reduction needed to limit global warming to 2 ° C. He however noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) “gathered last month its first conference on health and climate, which have been recognized the need to build resilience to climate change and opportunity to realize gains to public health through well-planned control measures “.

” We have a very good collaboration with WHO. She accomplished invaluable work and it must have more funds to go further and help prepare health systems in low and middle income countries to climate change “ says Nick Watts. This is the second of the ten recommendations to governments for the next five years the commission formula. The first prompt them “investing in research, monitoring and supervision of climate change to better understand adaptation needs and potential health co-benefits of climate limitations at local and national levels” [ 1999026].

Campaign of health professionals

The publication of this report is welcomed by Dr Maria Neira, Director of Public Health Department and WHO environment, which announces initiatives such the development of the air pollution monitoring platefome, using satellite data and the campaign “My health, my climate” . The latter, explains Maria Neira “aims to give a role to the health system and doctors in the fight against climate change. In particular, pulmonologists and pediatricians well placed to explain the link between air pollution and allergies and asthma “. In view of the Conference of Parties to be held in December in Paris, says Maria Neira, WHO will launch “a large network with associations of doctors to conduct this campaign. physicians will lead by example and tell the politicians why they should take action against climate change “.

work of the Commission The Lancet was funded by the Climate Works Foundation, the European Climate Foundation, Microsoft Research Asia, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the UK National Environment Research Council.


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