WHO: Researchers call for climate crisis to be recognized as a health emergency

WHO: Researchers call for climate crisis to be recognized as a health emergency

A broad alliance of scientists is calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the climate and nature crisis a health emergency. More than 200 scientific journals published a corresponding call. These include renowned magazines such as The Lancet and The British Medical Journal (BMJ). The scientists are calling for the climate-related health emergency to be resolved before the next one
World Health Assembly to be announced in spring 2024.

It is a dangerous mistake to view the climate and nature crises separately, the call says. “The climate crisis and biodiversity loss are both damaging human health, and they are linked,” said BMJ-Editor-in-Chief Kamran Abbasi. Health experts have a central role to play “in conveying this important message and in advocating for politicians to recognize the global health emergency and take urgent action.”

The call identifies a number of climate-related health impacts. Climate change is a contributing factor, among other things rising temperatures and extreme weather contribute to the spread of infectious diseases. Environmental pollution is damaging drinking water sources, and ocean acidification is making fish more rare for consumption. The decline in biodiversity makes it more difficult to feed humanity healthily. More settlement and agricultural construction as well as the advance into previously natural areas are bringing people into closer contact with tens of thousands of species. This increases the risk that diseases or parasites will be passed on to humans.

Health emergency not legally binding

A public health emergency is the highest alert level that the WHO can impose. She did this, for example in the context of the corona pandemic. As part of this, all member states are called upon to exchange information and take all necessary measures to end the crisis. However, the WHO cannot give any country specific instructions about measures.

With a view to the 28th UN Conference of the Parties (COP) on climate issues in Dubai in December and the next COP on the topic of biological diversity in Turkey, the scientists are also calling for a closer political link between climate and nature conservation measures. The contracting parties would have to link their national climate plans more closely to the corresponding biodiversity plans.

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