New Paper Shows: “A victory on climate is a victory for health”

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From the rise of clean electricity to the elimination of food waste. From designing cities for walking and cycling to preserving ecosystems. Projects that lead to a low-carbon society and limit climate change will have more and greater health benefits than previously thought.

Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI).
By Ann Grauvogl

These are the conclusions of a new commentary in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health collaborators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), Project Drawdown and the University of Minnesota.

In “Climate Solutions Double as Health Interventions,” the team analyzes how Project Drawdown’s 80 solutions that build on existing technologies and practices to limit global warming will also improve human health. Looking at nine sectors, from energy to environmental resources, they identified health benefits “through better air quality, increased physical activity, healthier diets, reduced risk of infectious diseases, better sexual and reproductive health and universal education”.

“We only have eight years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% to prevent the earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” says the director and co -GHI author Jonathan Patz, who holds positions at the Nelson Institute and Department. population health sciences. “The climate crisis is actually a health emergency. Yet, at the same time, actions to achieve a low-carbon economy offer enormous opportunities for health.

Patz and others have previously published work on how limiting greenhouse gases benefits health. This paper goes further, using Project Drawdown’s quantitative assessment of specific climate change actions to determine which of these solutions might provide the greatest health and well-being benefits.

“While the full climate benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation can take decades to manifest, many of the health benefits we describe here begin to accrue immediately after a mitigation action is taken,” says lead author Nicholas Mailloux, a SAGE PhD student.

“Climate action today means health benefits tomorrow.”—Nicholas Mailloux, PhD student, SAGE

The paper notes that the current warming of 1°C above pre-industrial times is already disrupting the earth’s climate. “Continued global warming will lead to increasingly dangerous extreme weather events (such as heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires), cause significant sea level rise, have dramatic effects on ecosystems and natural resources and will threaten human well-being worldwide. .”

The document envisions immediate action across all sectors to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and targets net zero by 2050. Project Drawdown, set up to help get to the point where gas levels greenhouse gases begin to decline, showed that the world could stop the 2040s and 2060s by implementing solutions that exist today and are financially viable.

Linking the work of the retirement project to health benefits helps clarify the need for action. “The health co-benefits of climate mitigation solutions are often more familiar to people and therefore can help garner public support for climate action while addressing the very real health impacts of the climate crisis. individuals and communities around the world,” says the co-author. Kristen P. Patterson, Director of Drawdown Lift at Project Drawdown.

“People often assume that climate change solutions mean giving up something,” adds co-author Paul West, Director of Special Projects-Global Solutions Initiative, at Project Drawdown. “Eating healthy foods, working to improve the air quality and walkability of our communities, increasing access to reproductive health services, boosting quality education and expanding open green spaces all improve health and people’s quality of life. It turns out that these are also climate solutions.

The Project Drawdown graph shows the potential emissions of each sector as well as the solution subgroups. From Climate solutions go hand in hand with health interventions.

By linking climate action to health benefits, the authors hope the paper will be a resource, especially for health professionals, including doctors and nurses, advocating for action on climate change. .

“Health professionals, who consistently rank among society’s most trusted messengers, are increasingly engaged in climate advocacy and are uniquely positioned to make health a resonant part of the climate conversation. climate,” says Mailloux. “The information in this article can help put this group and others on a solid scientific footing when considering the magnitude and scope of the health benefits of climate change mitigation.”

The assessment is particularly timely since many countries are determining their climate commitments ahead of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, or CoP27, in November 2022, Patz said. “If they know how much there is overlap between carbon reduction decisions and public health policies, it helps to clarify that climate actions can be viewed more positively. A Climate Victory is a victory for health.

The team plans to distribute the document to policy makers with the aim of encouraging policies aimed at reducing global warming emissions and delivering health benefits.

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