On 23 June, the Lancet Journal released a paper produced by the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, highlighting key areas for policy makers to focus on regarding climate change and global health.
Some of the biggest contributors to global warming include the transport industry and the agricultural industry. Emissions from cars, can simply be reduced by encouraging active transport such as walking and cycling or by boosting use of more eco forms of transport such as trains or electric cars (as long as the electricity is from renewable sources). The agricultural industry is mainly causing global warming through the production of meat, especially red meat. This causes greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane. Not only are forests cut down to create space to graze cattle (decreasing air quality) but red meat has been shown to have close links to diseases such as colorectal cancer. Georgina Mace (UCL) a member of the Climate Health Commission says ‘ There are many win-win situations here’ and Anthony Costello (UCL) co-chair of the commission says ‘All the things we want to do to combat climate change will also protect us against ill health’.
The Lancet’s Climate Health Commission is calling governments to inject $1 trillion into renewable technologies and investments. This may seem a lot but the subsidies for the fossil fuel industries are far greater – worth $5.3 trillion in 2015 alone. We need to make a significant step into tackling global energy with the market still dominated by fossil fuels – coal with 27%, oil with 32% and gas with 22% of the global energy market share. ‘The usual excuse for not investing in renewables is that it’s too expensive’ Paul Ekins (UCL) (Climate Health Commission team economist) but this has changed with solar panel prices dropping and the costs of all these renewable technologies falling.
Overall, climate change offers a great opportunity to improve public health as well as protecting our planet from further damage. We need to reduce all the major sources of emissions both by changing the way we behave and by investing in renewable energy infrastructure.