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Pressure on climate change action

Health professionals urged governments to act now to tackle the medical and security threats from climate changes at a meeting hosted by the BMJ yesterday.

A statement released at the meeting calls for national governments to “strive to adopt climate change mitigation targets and policies that are more ambitious than their international commitments”.

It also states that climate change is an immediate problem and rising temperatures and weather instability will lead to more frequent and extreme weather events, water and food shortages, the spread of disease and could potentially trigger mass migration, leading to further security issues.

The statement reads: “It will often not be possible to adapt meaningfully to these changes, and the economic cost will be enormous. As in medicine, prevention is the best solution.

“Climate change mitigation policies would significantly cut rates of preventable death and disability for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

“The health co-benefits of lower carbon use save money: reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 would save over €80bn a year in healthcare costs and through increased productivity of a healthier workforce.”

Professor Hugh Montgomery, director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, said: “It is not enough for politicians to deal with climate change as some abstract academic concept. The price of complacency will be paid in human lives and suffering, and all will be affected.

“Tackling climate change can avoid this, while related lifestyle changes independently produce significant health benefits. It is time we saw true leadership from those who would profess to take such a role.”

The statement calls for specific action, including governments to stop building new coal-fired power stations and a global, legally binding agreement consistent with the target of restricting the global temperature rise to 2°C and in line with the pending review towards a 1.5°C limit above preindustrial levels.

Signatories to the statement include Dr Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the BMJ; Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council of the BMA; Professor Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at University College London and director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance; and Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians.

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