200 Global Health Journals Warn of ‘Runaway’ Environmental Change if Temperatures Rise Above 1·5°C


Climate change: A firefighter fighting a battle against a fire in South Africa

“The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1·5°C, and to restore nature. Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world,” according to an editorial published simultaneously in 200 journals world-wide.

The aim of the editorial is to help develop momentum for “urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1·5°C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health” in the run-up to the UN General Assembly which starts on 14 September,  the biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. 

“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1·5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse. Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions,” states the editorial, published in journals that are usually in competition with one another.

The editorial warns that temperature rises of above 1·5°C ”increase the chance of reaching tipping points in natural systems that could lock the world into an acutely unstable state” and “critically impair our ability to mitigate harms and to prevent catastrophic, runaway environmental change”.

It says that targets set by many governments, financial institutions, and businesses “are not enough”. 

“They are yet to be matched with credible short-term and longer-term plans to accelerate cleaner technologies and transform societies. Emissions reduction plans do not adequately incorporate health considerations.

“Concern is growing that temperature rises above 1·5°C are beginning to be seen as inevitable, or even acceptable, to powerful members of the global community,” states the editorial.

“Relatedly, current strategies for reducing emissions to net-zero by the middle of the 21st century implausibly assume that the world will acquire great capabilities to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

“This insufficient action means that temperature increases are likely to be well in excess of 2°C, a catastrophic outcome for health and environmental stability. Crucially, the destruction of nature does not have parity of esteem with the climate element of the crisis, and every single global target to restore biodiversity loss by 2020 was missed. This is an overall environmental crisis.

“Health professionals are united with environmental scientists, businesses, and many others in rejecting that this outcome is inevitable.”


Image Credits: Commons Wikimedia.

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