Doctors warn of risks of climate change for the first time
Climate change is the biggest health threat facing doctors this century, the first medical assessment of the dangers of global warming has warned.
Until now the medical profession has not taken a position on climate change, considering issues such as world poverty, HIV and bird flu to be more pressing threats to human health.
However, a study by the University College London, published in the Lancet, concluded that the problems caused by climate change such as food shortages, heat waves and increased threat of tropical diseases such as malaria will kill billions of people.
It means climate change is now the biggest threat to humanity.
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century,” the authors including doctors, climatologists and economists concluded.
“Effects of climate change will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives of and well-being of billions of people at increased risk.”
The year-long study predicted temperature rises during the next century are likely to rise by more than 3.6F (2C) bring about catastrophic consequences.
The health of people in poorer countries such as Bangladesh will be worst affected because they do not have the money to respond to events like flooding, crop failure and an increase in insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.
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However, the report said, developed countries will also be affected. Extreme weather events will be more frequent across the world and rises in temperature will cause problems for the elderly and vulnerable.
Mass migration and even war caused by food and water shortages will cause health problems like starvation and the threat of disease.
Doctors even fear climate change will have a “psychosocial” effect on health with patients requiring counselling over the fear of global warming and the effects it will have.
Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, said doctors have been “silent for too long about the importance of climate change to the future of health services”.
“It is an urgent threat, it is a dangerous threat, it is immediate and requires an unprecedented response by Government and international organisations,” he said.
Doctors around the world are being urged to become advocates for encouraging a “low carbon lifestyle”, for example by cycling rather than taking a car. Not only to tackle global warming but obesity, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and other conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
The paper also called on world Governments cut emissions and invest in helping poorer countries to adapt to climate change so that deaths are minimised.