Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.
That is the emphatic conclusion of the world’s leading medical journal in a 40 page report published last week which found that governments must act quickly to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the affects of global warming on health.
Not only did the report determine that climate change is the biggest threat to global health, it noted that during this century the Earth’s atmosphere is likely to rise more than the two degrees Celsius currently considered to be a manageable increase.
“Effects of climate change on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk,” said the report published by The Lancet following a year-long study by the University College London Institute for Global Health. “Climate change is not just an environmental issue but also a health issue. The ability to adapt to the health affects of climate change depends on measures that reduce its severity – ie, mitigation measures that will drastically reduce carbon emissions in the short term, but also increasing the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon.”
Among the report’s key findings was a call for a better understanding of what a temperature rise this century of 3-4 degrees Celsius would mean for people’s health and the economy. It also noted that the effects of global warming will significantly increase as Earth’s temperature rises.
“The return period and severity of floods, droughts, heat waves and storms will worsen. Coastal cities and towns will be especially vulnerable as sea level rise will increase the effects of floods and storm surges. Increased frequency and magnitude of extreme climate events together with reduced water and food security will have a severe effect on public health of billions of people.”
Effectively confronting the climate change challenge, the report said, will require citizens pushing governments to act decisively. Society must also reduce the influence of vested interests that increase emissions, it noted, and promote a culture of sustainability.
A sobering read, the report doesn’t flinch from accepting the complex global warming reality we are all facing. Neither does wind power, which was in the news a few days earlier than The Lancet report with an announcement that the first phase of the world’s largest offshore wind farm project will finally proceed.
DONG Energy, E.ON and Masdar said they will be investing €2.2 billion in the initial phase of the London Array in the Thames Estuary, 19 kilometres off the coast. Expected to be finished by 2012, the first 630 MW phase will have 175 turbines. After the second phase is completed, the entire 1 GW project should result in 1.9 million fewer tonnes of CO₂ being released into the atmosphere each year.
The European Wind Energy Association applauds the London Array announcement as it proves humankind can replace the destructive status quo that comes from burning fossil fuels with a sustainable, healthier de-carbonised future. And since we have no other choice, we’d all better start embracing this new green transformation sooner rather than later.