Climate Change and Health are entwined

By Rohan Gupta

Published on 14, May, 2018

Climate change has become an important concern in the 21st century, according to the prestigious Lancet medical journal. The journal has published an editorial highlight the effects of climate change and how it is inextricably entwined with health.

The relation between climate change and health is evident from the increasing deaths due to polluted air, read the editorial. With focus on the UK’s 2010 Climate Change Act, the journal says the act aims at reducing UK’s carbon-dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2050.

The Lancet editorial identifies the challenges and opportunities for UK in the quest to turn climate change legislation into public health policies which would help to maximise the health benefits.

 Here are the key takeaways from the editorial:

There are a number of interest groups in Climate change legislation as its effect is multi-faceted. So, cross-departmental policy sharing in the UK government becomes a pre-requisite for an effective climate change policy. The Lancet identifies bureaucratic complexity in policy sharing between the different departments. But it also says that the Climate change Act will facilitate such sharing along with the help of health professionals.

The relatedness of travel and air pollution policies poses a challenge for UK policy makers. Active travel in the form of cycling and walking is advisable on an individual level but it is hindered by varied rural and urban infrastructure, poor traffic safety and hazardous outside air pollution. The Lancet also suggests further inculcating health into decision making.

There are two upcoming policies in UK which focus on air pollution. One is the new draft for clean air strategy which would update the 1956 and 1968 Clean Air Acts. This will be accompanied by an Environment Act, which is yet to be drafted. This act, the process of which is being precipitated will affect local and national land use, industry output, agriculture and urban planning. The need is to link these two initiatives with the help of the health community so that health remains on the foreground of cross-departmental agenda.

The editorial also draws attention to the WHO report which studied air pollution in 4300 cities and found that nine out of ten people are breathing polluted air. According to the Lancet, WHO data should be used to facilitate cross-sectorial solutions for urban housing, land use and urban infrastructure.

The Lancet also says that the climate change should be a priority for the states and climate change policies should be embedded with health policies. The Climate change act in UK can be source of information and inspiration for other countries within the Paris Agreement framework.