Doctors have warned they are already having to deal with the repercussions of climate change, adding ‘the burning of fossil fuels is killing us.’
A new report from the World Health organisation has claimed the changing environment is ‘the single biggest health threat facing humanity’.
The crisis could undo 50 years of progress in health and reducing poverty — with extreme weather, food disruption and disease on the rise — the WHO said in the run-up to the UN Cop26 conference in Glasgow.
Climate change is leading to death and illness from increasingly extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods, disruptions to food systems, increases in disease spread and mental health issues.
The report urged action to meet Paris Agreement targets, end fossil fuel subsidies and tackle inequality.
And a letter published alongside it — from 300 organisations representing some 45million health professionals — called for Cop26 representatives and world leaders ‘to avert the impending health catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5C, and to make human health and equity central to climate change mitigation actions’.
It said urgent action is necessary because health professionals are already responding to harms caused by climate change.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘The same unsustainable choices that are killing our planet are killing people.’
The organisation’s Dr Maria Neira added: ‘It has never been clearer that the climate crisis is one of the most urgent health emergencies we face.’
It comes as new research revealed the most popular polices people would like to see adopted as part of efforts to combat climate change.
WWF and think tank Demos polled 20,000 people to find their preferred options for cutting greenhouse gases.
Participants were asked to choose from several different options using a ‘climate calculator’ to work out how they would cut emissions 39% on 2019 levels by the end of the decade.
The most popular options were a carbon tax on polluting industry, with subsidies for them to invest in green technology, and better public transport co-ordinated by local government.
Support to help people adopt plant-based diets and reduce meat and dairy consumption also received support from 93% of those taking part.
And 91% of participants wanted to see a comprehensive UK-wide electric car and van charging network in place by 2028, the study found.
Almost as popular were some increases to flying costs, followed by some restrictions on cars in city centres and a reduction in the speed limit on motorways, more sustainable farming and conserving forests.
If adopted by the Government, the set of measures would cut emissions by 42% – higher than the current target.
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