Climate Change and Health
Here at CSH we acknowledge the strong, academic consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that if we are going to limit global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels then unprecedented change is required. We are already experiencing the effects of a 1.2°C rise, and the IPCC now predicts a 48% chance of reaching a rise of 1.5°C, at least temporarily, in the next 5 years. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts a rise of 2°C or more will have catastrophic health consequences.
What is the impact on our health?
On our current trajectory, the World Bank predicts that by 2030 climate change will reverse recent public health gains putting 100 million people back into poverty and causing at least an additional 250,000 deaths annually.
The stability of the climate is inextricably linked to human health and wellbeing. Extreme heat stress, severe weather events (flooding, cyclones), changing patterns of infectious disease and food insecurity through reduced crop yields and water shortages are already impacting our health. Find out more here.
What about our health systems?
Not only are our health systems vulnerable to changes in both the burden and pattern of climate-related health impacts, but they are major contributors to climate change itself. If the global health care sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet, ranking just behind Japan.
The NHS is the UK’s biggest public greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for approximately 5% of all UK environmental emissions with over 20 million tons of carbon from NHS England alone. It is estimated that 5% of all road traffic is NHS related.
What can I do as a healthcare professional?
In the UK the beginning of 2020 saw NHS England and NHS Improvement launch the campaign called For a Greener NHS, designed to build on the existing work being done by trusts across the country, sharing ideas on how to reduce the impact on public health and the environment while also saving money.
The NHS is the first health system in the world to set a target for net zero carbon emissions and it is going to require a massive transformation for us to reach this.
Everyday we see a huge amount of waste being produced, but there are less visible ways in which clinical practice contributes to global heating such as through the release of anaesthetic gases or propellants from metered dose asthma inhalers. It is our aim to embed the principles of sustainable clinical practice into everyday care delivery.
The SusQI framework is an innovative tool which links carbon reduction and sustainability to the core mission of providing the best possible care, and provides you with tools with which to achieve changes on the ground, which cumulatively help to transform the health system. Find our more about the SusQI framework and start contributing to climate change action here.
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“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfilment.”
-Sir David Attenborough