In an unprecedented move that marks a significant shift in the global health discourse, over 200 health journals worldwide have collectively published a seminal editorial.
This concerted effort urgently calls upon global leaders and health professionals to acknowledge and confront the intertwined nature of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. This coalition of publications asserts that these twin crises constitute a single, immediate global health emergency that demands a unified and robust response.
Global health emergency
This rare collaborative editorial underscores the grievous error of addressing climate change and biodiversity loss as isolated events. It emphasizes the urgency for the World Health Organization (WHO) to officially declare this intertwined crisis as a global health emergency. The scientists highlight the direct and devastating impacts of these environmental catastrophes on human health.
Featured in renowned journals such as The BMJ, The Lancet, JAMA, and several regional titles like the Medical Journal of Australia, the East African Medical Journal, the National Medical Journal of India, and Dubai Medical Journal, the editorial marks a milestone in a unified global health message.
The authors point out that the most impoverished and vulnerable populations often shoulder the heaviest burden. The editorial elaborates on global health threats magnified by climate change, including rising temperatures, increasingly severe weather events, escalating air pollution, and the spread of infectious diseases.
One of the profound examples provided is the fundamental human reliance on clean water. The editorial explains how pollution compromises water quality, leading to a surge in water-borne diseases. Concurrently, ocean acidification is causing a detrimental decrease in both the quality and availability of seafood, a primary food source and income for billions globally.
Biodiversity loss: A multifaceted threat
The crisis extends beyond immediate global health impacts. Biodiversity loss drastically undermines nutritional health and hampers the discovery of new, nature-derived medicines. Alterations in land use are bringing thousands of species into closer contact. This heightens the exchange of pathogens and the potential emergence of novel diseases and pandemics.
Moreover, the scientists underscore the intrinsic health benefits of high-quality green spaces. These areas contribute to air purification, temperature reduction, encouragement of physical activity, and improvement in mental health. Urbanization poses a relentless threat to these critical advantages.
Unfulfilled promises harm global health
Reflecting on the biodiversity conference (COP 15) of December 2022, where an agreement was reached on conserving 30% of the world’s land, coastal areas, and oceans by 2030, the editorial voices concern. The conference inadvertently created a segmentation of climate and nature scientists.
This separation has led to unmet commitments. Ecosystems have been pushed to the verge of collapse, heightening the risk of catastrophic global health implications. Whether or not global warming can be kept below a 1.5°C increase has no relevance.
Calling out the World Health Organization
Given the dire circumstances and the tangible health impacts already underway, the authors urge the WHO to officially declare the combined climate and nature crises as a global health emergency. This pivotal step, they advocate, should occur before or during the World Health Assembly in May 2024.
The resolution of this emergency, the editorial suggests, necessitates a harmonization of the COP processes. The initial move in this direction would require an enhanced integration of national climate plans with their biodiversity counterparts.
Furthermore, global health professionals are called upon to be vigorous advocates for restoring biodiversity and combating climate change. They must utilize their unique positions of public trust to influence political action.
The editorial concludes with a powerful message, emphasizing the necessity for global recognition of this dual crisis as the profound health emergency it is.
Uniting voices for collective action
Kamran Abbasi, Editor-in-Chief of The BMJ, echoed the sentiments of the collective. He stressed the intrinsic link between human health, climate, and biodiversity, criticizing the current compartmentalized approach to these urgent issues. Abbasi highlighted the crucial role of health professionals in conveying this critical message and advocating for urgent political action.
In unison, these health journals are sending an unequivocal message to the world. The time for recognizing and robustly addressing the intertwined global health emergency of climate crisis and biodiversity loss is NOW.
This collaborative stand serves as a beacon, rallying health professionals, policymakers, and individuals worldwide to take concerted, meaningful action towards safeguarding our collective future.