More than 200 health journals across the world have, for the first time, come together to simultaneously publish an editorial calling on world leaders to take emergency action to limit global temperature increases, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.
In a year of Covid-19, the editorial warns that the greatest threat to global public health into the future is the continued failure of world leaders to take adequate action to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius as decided in the UN-mandated Paris Agreement in 2015 and to restore nature.
The editorial has been published in leading titles from every continent including The BMJ, The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the National Medical Journal of India, the Medical Journal of Australia, and 50 BMJ specialist journals including BMJ Global Health and Thorax.
"As health professionals, we must do all we can to aid the transition to a sustainable, fairer, resilient, and healthier world," the experts wrote in the editorial.
"We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course," they added.
According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, every fraction of a degree hotter endangers our health and future.
The editorial, published ahead of the UN General Assembly next week, urged wealthier nations to act faster and do more to support those countries already suffering under higher temperatures.
The impact on health and survival of extreme temperatures, destructive weather events, and the widespread degradation of essential ecosystems are just some of the impacts that we are seeing more of due to a changing climate.
They disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, ethnic minorities, poorer communities and those with underlying health conditions.
"The environment and health are inextricably intertwined. The changing climate is endangering us in many ways, including its critical impacts on health and health care delivery. As medical and public health practitioners, we have an obligation not only to anticipate new health care needs but also to be active participants in limiting the causes of the climate crisis," said Eric J Rubin, Editor-in-Chief of NEJM, and one of the co-authors of the editorial.