September 16, 2019
 In 2023-Climate Change and Public Health

Country: United Kingdom
Delegate Name: Brianna Christenson

The negative effects of climate change have recently been studied and are expected to become exponentially more severe if climate change continues. The United Nation states that climate change is a global emergency that goes beyond national borders. Climate change is an issue that threatens the foundations of good global health, with direct and immediate consequences for the public. It can affect quality and diversity of life, and food availability. Temperature and precipitation changes can also enhance the spread of vector-borne diseases which can be harmful to the public. Without preventive actions, deaths from such diseases could start to rise.

Three-quarters of adults in the United Kingdom are concerned about the effects of climate change with upcoming generations. The situation of climate change has been getting worse, with nine out of the ten hottest years on record occurring in the last decade, and more than 2,500 people have been killed by heat waves across the UK in 2020. Without accelerated action there will be increases in the intensity of heatwaves, and increased spread of infectious diseases. The combustion of fossil fuels is the primary contributor to ill-health from air pollution. Over one-third of new asthma cases could be avoided with efforts to cut carbon fossil fuel emissions. At a global level, the UK has signed the Paris agreement, a legal commitment to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius and reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. At a national level, the UK Climate Change Act 2008 requires the government to undertake five-yearly assessments of climate risks and produce a National Adaptation Plan for responding to the identified risks, including the risks to health and wellbeing as a priority.

The National Health Service in England became the first healthcare system in the world to commit to reduce carbon emissions, and it can directly influence its net zero by 2040. These commitments are going to be essential to the health and care system in England because carbon emissions account for approximately 5% of the country’s national greenhouse gas emissions. Distinctly, carbon ‘hotspots’ are from supply-chain items like pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, and patient or staff travel. Health care professionals are highly trusted in the United Kingdom and therefore well placed to advocate for action on the climate crisis and the health impacts it has. By acting on the climate crisis, Health care professionals can safeguard population health against the worst effects of a warming climate.