Health leaders call for concerted action on climate change at Lima summit

Climate change puts the health of people at risk, both directly and indirectly, say health professionals

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 08 December 2014

Worsening extreme weather events lead to several health risks, say summit participants (Photo: Vikas Choudhary)

Health professionals, public health experts and policymakers have called for a fair and legally binding global climate agreement in Paris in 2015 to protect and promote human health. This message was conveyed at the 2014 Climate and Health Summit, as part of the ongoing Lima climate change conference.
The health summit featured speakers such as Peru’s health minister, Aníbal Velásquez Valdivia, vice-president of World Bank, Rachel Kyte, and former IPCC lead author, Saleemul Huq.

Participants at the summit discussed the health impacts of changing weather and rising seas, and how governments can simultaneously cut emissions and enable healthier lives for their citizens.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest report highlighted the health risks that result from unmitigated climate change. They include physical and mental health effects due to an increase in heat stress, increased ground-level ozone and worsening extreme weather events.

Climate change also affects health less directly such as through an increase in infectious diseases, increased malnutrition due to reduced crop yields, and indirect impacts from the loss of livelihoods, displacement and civil unrest or conflict.

The summit stressed the need for a dramatic scale-up of investment in projects which reduce emissions, benefit health and improve climate resilience. Speakers also emphasised the health benefits and cost savings from reducing fossil fuel use.

“Putting the two together—healthier lives and cutting emissions responsible for climate change—has to be the way forward. This Climate and Health Summit, alongside the COP process, show what needs to be done. Now we just need to do it,” said Sue Atkinson, co-chair of the UK Climate and Health Council, an organisation of health professionals.

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